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Talking About Your Job

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To ask other people about their shigoto (shee-goh-toh; jobs), say O-shigoto wa nan desu ka (oh-shee-goh-toh wah nahn deh-soo kah; What's your job?). Or you can use the abbreviated version, O-shigoto wa (oh-shee-goh-toh wah; How about your job?). Following are some occupations you or your conversational partner may hold:

  • bengoshi (behn-goh-shee; lawyer)
  • isha (ee-shah; medical doctor)
  • kangofu (kahn-goh-foo; nurse)
  • jimuin (jee-moo-een; secretary)
  • kameraman (kah-meh-rah-mahn; photographer)
  • kenkyuin (kehn-kyooo-een; researcher)
  • kokku (kohk-koo; chef)
  • konpyuta purogurama (kohn-pyooo-tahh poo-roh-goo-rah-mahh; computer programmer)
  • kyoju (kyohh-joo; professor)
  • kyoshi (kyohh-shee; teacher)
  • ueta (oo-ehh-tahh; waiter)
  • uetoresu (oo-ehh-toh-reh-soo; waitress)

If you just want to say that you work for a kaisha (kah-ee-shah; company) or that you're an office worker, you can use the term kaishain (kah-ee-shah-een; company employee). The Japanese typically identify themselves as kaishain without specifying their job titles or roles.

Managing your Office Equipment

If you're a seishain (sehh-shah-een; full-time employee), you probably spend about one-third of your time at the jimusho (jee-moo-shoh; office). Why not make your shokuba (shoh-koo-bah; workplace) as comfortable as possible? While you're sitting in your isu (ee-soo; chair) at your tsukue (tsoo-koo-eh; desk), take a look around. What do you have on your desktop? What don't you have?

Check inside your hikidashi (hee-kee-dah-shee; drawers) to see what office supplies you have:

If you can't find a pen or an eraser, ask a colleague. Use the verb aru (ah-roo; to exist) to ask "Do you have?" Add the polite suffix -masu (mah-soo) to the stem form of aru, as in arimasu (ah-ree-mah-soo), and make the phrase into a question by adding the question particle ka (kah), as in arimasu ka (ah-ree-mah-soo kah).

If you just ask arimasu ka, your colleague won't understand what you want. Mention the item you're asking about at the beginning of the sentence and place the topic particle wa (wah) right after the item you're inquiring about, as in these examples:

Words to Know

Searching for a Job

When you sagasu (sah-gah-soo; look for) a shigoto (shee-goh-toh; job), you need to get ready for the mensetsu (mehn-seh-tsoo; interview). Be prepared to talk about your shokureki (shoh-koo-reh-kee; work history) and your career goals.

Conjugate the verb sagasu (sah-gah-soo; to look for). Sagasu is a u-verb.


You may want to address the following issues:

When looking for a job, you want to know the duties and responsibilities associated with the position. For starters, you might ask these questions:

Even after you start working in a new place, you have to figure out what to do each day. Conjugate the verb hataraku (hah-tah-rah-koo; to work). It's a u-verb.


When you need to say "I have to" or "I must," use the verb in the negative form (see Chapter 2 for more on verb forms). Drop the final i (ee) and add -kute wa ikemasen (koo-teh wah ee-keh-mah-sehn) or -kutewa ikenai (koo-teh wah ee-keh-nah-ee). For example, the negative form of taberu (tah-beh-roo) is tabenai (tah-beh-nah-ee). By dropping the i and adding -kute wa ikemasen, you get tabenakute wa ikemasen (tah-beh-nah-koo-teh wah ee-keh-mah-sehn), which means "I have to eat." It's a mouthful, but it's the easiest way to express "have to" or "must" in Japanese. Take a look at these examples:

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