Is it your dream to teach English in Japan?
From the series of Questions Foreigners get asked in Japan, this week it’s a question we often get asked after meeting someone in Japan, in one of these three varieties.
How Long Have You Lived in Japan? 日本にどのくらい住んでいますか。
How long have you lived in (city)? （city） にはどのくらい住んでいますか。
When did you come to Japan? 日本にいつきましたか。
What it means: When did you get here and do you know anything about my hometown/country yet?
The How long version of the question is a little more difficult, so you might get asked the When version if you didn’t understand.
Even other foreigners will ask you this (but usually in English), not only the Japanese people you meet and all your students. A confident answer (in Japanese) will let them know you’re doing okay, but not even understanding the question lets them know you haven’t been here for long.
I have a feeling Japanese people like to gage the Japanese proficiency of foreigners based on how long they’ve been in Japan. Maybe it’s my imagination.
Most likely, if you’re asked this question, it’s because someone is being friendly and trying to get to know you. For example, if you’re new in town, you might not know the best place to get groceries or the best ramen restaurant. It’s your chance to ask now. First let’s go over how to answer this question, in Japanese.
There’s really no need to give a long answer to the How long question, we’re just looking for an amount of time. It’s appropriate to think for a second, just how long has it been now? The important element is time, so we want to use 間/kan, as in for x amount of time.
まあ、もうすぐ９ヶ月間かなぁー。 “Well, for almost nine months, I think.” Is an appropriate answer.
Note: The small katakana ke: ヶ is pronounced ka here and makes the distinction that we aren’t talking about the 9th month (September), but the space of nine months.
To answer the When question, we want to go with the date when we came, along with the past verb in the question, 来ました/came.
去年の８月に来ました。Not a literal date with the year, but, “in August of last year.”
If it was quite a while back, I don’t need to be teaching you this, but we can use x months or years ago by saying, 前/mae: xヶ月前／x年前. We’d probably finish off this phrase with a verb, like came or it was: 二年前でしたね。It was a couple years ago, wasn’t it.
Some useful time words:
for one month 一ヶ月間 ikka gatsu kan
for six months 半年間 han toshi kan
for one year 一年間 ichi nen kan
this year 今年 kotoshi
last year 去年 kyo nen
two years ago 二年前 ni nen mae
The time will go by quickly!