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What's Japanese For "yes" and "no" ?

These pages are written by the teamwork of Jordi and me.

What's Japanese For "yes" and "no"?

I'll tell you what happened when I asked my Japanese teacher this question.

He first looked a bit embarrassed, then seemed doubtful for a few seconds. Then he said that Japanese for "yes" is hai and Japanese for "no" is iie.

What did this answer mean?

The words he said meant that sometimes some Japanese say hai when an English speaker would say "yes", and sometimes say iie for "no".

The embarrasment meant that, as a student, I was not supposed to question my teacher, for it feels defiant. But he realized that, as a non-Japanese, I had a different culture, so asking questions was OK for me.

The few seconds of looking doubtful were supposed to give me a clue that the answer he was going to give should not be taken at face value. The teacher realized that my question really meant "what words must I use to answer questions in Japanese?". However, the real answer is very long and involved, and full of details which would confuse me, so he thought that I didn't really want to know. So, by giving me a short answer, short and easy to understand, he was trying to boost my self-confidence and self-esteem, and encourage me to go on with my Japanese lessons, instead of confusing me with details I wasn't expecting.

This experience was also supposed to teach me that the Japanese believe body language (or, as it's called lately, "non-verbal communication") to be much more expressive than verbal expression and less likely to cause misunderstandings, particularly across the language barrier.

Unfortunately enough, at the time I didn't understand all that. I might have as well looked the words up in any dictionary. Of course, most dictionaries say that Japanese for "yes" is hai and Japanese for "no" is iie, and don't bother you with any details.

The following pages explain the involved details you supposedly don't want to know.