How to Say “Do You Know Japanese?” in Japanese: Formal and Informal Ways

Learning how to say “Do you know Japanese?” in Japanese can be a great icebreaker when you meet someone from Japan or when you’re curious about their language skills. In this guide, we’ll explore both the formal and informal ways to ask this question, as well as provide you with some tips and examples. So, let’s dive in!

Formal Way: ご存知ですか? (Gozonji desu ka?)

When addressing someone in a respectful and formal manner, you can use the phrase “ご存知ですか?” (Gozonji desu ka?) to ask if they know Japanese. This phrase is considered polite and is suitable for use in professional or formal settings.

Phrase Breakdown:

ご存知 (Gozonji) – This phrase means “to know” or “to be aware of” in a respectful manner.

ですか (desu ka) – This is a polite way of forming a question.

Example Sentences:

  • ご存知ですか? (Gozonji desu ka?) – Do you know Japanese?
  • 日本語をご存知ですか? (Nihongo o gozonji desu ka?) – Do you know the Japanese language?

Informal Way: 知ってる? (Shitteru?)

If you’re in a casual or informal setting, such as when talking to friends or peers, you can use the phrase “知ってる?” (Shitteru?) to ask if someone knows Japanese.

Phrase Breakdown:

知ってる (Shitteru) – This word is the casual form of “to know.”

Example Sentences:

  • 知ってる? (Shitteru?) – Do you know Japanese?
  • 日本語を知ってる? (Nihongo o shitteru?) – Do you know the Japanese language?

Tips and Regional Variations:

Here are some additional tips and regional variations you may find useful:

1. Adding “ですか?” or “か?” for Politeness:

In both formal and informal versions, you can add “ですか?” (desu ka?) or “か?” (ka?) at the end of the sentence to make it sound more polite.

2. Using “話せる?” (Hanaseru?) to Ask if Someone Can Speak:

If you specifically want to know if someone can speak Japanese, you can replace “知ってる?” (Shitteru?) with “話せる?” (Hanaseru?) in the informal version or “話せますか?” (Hanasemasu ka?) in the formal version.

3. Regional Variations:

While there are no significant regional variations in asking this question, keep in mind that the pronunciation may vary slightly from region to region in Japan.


Now you have learned how to ask “Do you know Japanese?” in both formal and informal ways. Remember to use the formal version when speaking to someone in a respectful or professional setting, and use the informal version when talking to friends or peers. Don’t hesitate to practice these phrases to improve your communication skills with Japanese speakers. Enjoy your language learning journey!

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