Opinions are to conversation as seasoning is to food. Without them, conversations would be bland and empty. Add in a few opinions though, and things can become a lot more interesting. Whether you are discussing work proposals with colleagues, or chatting about hobbies with friends; Opinions play an important role when it comes to making conversation.
However, the way that opinions are expressed in different cultures and languages around the world can differ a lot. Japan is no exception, with the use of opinions in conversation being quite different from many English cultures. This article will aim to teach you how to both convey your opinions in Japanese, as well as guide you on opinion giving in Japanese culture.
In Japanese culture, maintaining harmonious relationships is considered extremely important. Because of that, Japanese people tend to be quite subtle when giving their opinions on things. This is even more exaggerated in formal settings, where maintaining relationships is a tentative balancing act.
Giving a positive opinion in Japanese is mostly straightforward. You can simply say that you think that something is good, or you can go into more detail of what it is that you like about it. The phrases used are a little less exaggerated than English, but in general are used in similar ways.
Negative opinions however, are a bit more complicated. In many situations, especially in business related ones, Japanese people will avoid giving direct negative opinions of things, as they don’t want to risk causing offence to anyone. Rather than saying something direct like “I don’t agree with that”, they’d use phrases such as:
それはちょっと… (Sore wa chotto…)
That’s a bit…
それは難しいですね… (Sore wa muzukashii desu ne…)
That’s a tough one…
Whilst these comments aren’t a direct rebuttal, they still clearly imply that the speaker doesn’t approve of/like something. Of course, if you’re close friends with someone, you can be more direct with your negative opinions of things.
When giving your opinions on something, it’s important that you are able to express whether you like it or not. To do this, you can use the following phrases (replacing X with the object of the sentence):
Xが好きです. (X ga suki desu.)
I like X.
Xが嫌いです. (X ga kirai desu.)
I dislike X.
You can also emphasize these feelings by adding the word 大 (Dai - Large) in front of 好き and 嫌い. This turns like into love, and dislike into hate. Here’s an example:
Xが大好きです. (X ga daisuki desu.)
I love X.
One thing to remember is that Japanese people don’t exaggerate as much as Westerners do, so only use 大 when you feel strongly about something.
Next, let’s talk about the Japanese phrase for I think that. I think that is a great way to give a personal opinion in English, and the Japanese counterpart for it works in a very similar way. The phrases used for this are:
X (だ) と思います. (X (da) to omoimasu.)
X (だ) と思う. (X (da) to omou.)
I think that X.
The first phrase is used in polite and written language, whilst the second is used in casual conversation. The da in brackets is used when X ends with a noun or adjectival noun. It can be easy to forget to use it, but it is a key part of the sentence structure. Here are some examples of it in action:
その猫は可愛いと思います. (Sono neko wa kawaii to omoimasu).
I think that cat is cute.
ゆうなさんはいい人だと思います. (Yuuna san wa ii hito da to omoimasu.)
I think that Yuuna san is a good person.
Another way of expressing one’s opinion is through the Japanese phrase for I believe that. This phrase is mostly used when a topic lacks evidence, and is based off of the limited evidence available in combination with the speaker’s opinion.
X (だ) と信じます. (X (da) to shinjimasu.)
Once again, da is added before to if X ends with a noun or adjectival noun. Here’s an example of it being used.
中国の出身だと信じます. (Chuugoku no shusshin da to shinjimasu.)
I believe they are from China.
Equally as important as expressing your own opinion is being able to respond to other people’s opinions. Being able to listen to someone’s viewpoint and then talk about it is an important part of making conversation. If you want to agree with an opinion, you can use the following phrases:
そのとおりです. (Sono toori desu.)
私もそう思います. (Watashi mo sou omoimasu.)
I also think that.
If you want to disagree with someone, then you can use these phrases instead:
Xと意見が異なる. (X to iken ga kotonaru.)
I disagree with X’s opinion.
私はそうは思いません. (Watashi wa sou wa omoimasen.)
I don’t agree with that.
It’s also important to learn how to ask for other people’s opinions. In that situation, you can ask them with the following phrases:
どう思いますか？(Dou omoimasu ka?)
What do you think?
Once again, the first, longer phrase is used for polite and written language, whilst the second, shorter form is used in casual speech. If you’re in a group and asking a specific person’s opinion, then you should add their name to either the start or end of the above phrases.
Now that you’ve read this article, are you ready to start giving your opinions in Japanese? Opinions are a great way to start conversations, so get out there and get opinionated! Best of luck to you!