50+ Words You'll Hear in Japanese Elementary Schools

Updated on December 27, 2018
Ria Fritz profile image

Ria is an avid writer who is currently teaching English in southwest Japan. She loves helping new teachers and expats get settled in.

Takanawadai Elementary school in Tokyo, Japan.
Takanawadai Elementary school in Tokyo, Japan. | Source

If you're moving to Japan to be an English teacher, hopefully you've already worked on some basic Japanese. In order to get the most of your experience at school, though, you'll need to learn quite a bit more. Your recruiter might have assured you that all you have to do is plan lessons and show up to class, but sometimes the school doesn't quite get the same memo. Other times, the school gets the memo at first, but eventually forgets that you can't read "Assembly in the gym at 9:00am!" on the staff room white board.

Either way, knowing your gakkou (school) from your benkyou (study) isn't going to be enough. While you don't need to memorize all of these words right off the bat, you'll want to at least glance it over before arrival and use it as a study guide. For best results, make sure to learn your months and days of the week as well.

Furigana in Schools

If you're at an elementary school, many signs in the hallways and classrooms will be written in hiragana or will have kanji with furigana (small hiragana) written above them. However, this won't be the case in the staff room, which is why kanji are included on this page for your reference.

If you can't read hiragana and katakana yet, learn those ASAP! Your life will be considerably easier if you make an effort to learn to read.

Schedules and Times

gaikokugo
外国語
foreign language
jikanwari
時間割
schedule
gyoujiyotei
行事予定
event calendar
~kouji, ~jikanme
~校時、~時間目
period, hour
kyuushoku
給食
lunch
yasumi
休み
break, rest
houkago
放課後
after school, dismissal
~gakki
~学期
term, semester

Notes

These are some of the first words you'll hear on your first day. First and foremost, if you hear gaikokugo, remember that they're probably not just talking about any foreign language - they're talking about English! You may sometimes hear kids use the word eigo (英語, English), but the class schedule and teachers will typically refer to your class as gaikokugo.

While the loanword sukejuuru (スケジュール, schedule) can be used to refer to a schedule, you'll most commonly hear jikanwari used to refer to a school's daily schedule. Gyoujiyotei refers to a school's upcoming calendar of events, though you hopefully won't need to pay as much attention to that.

Kouji and jikanme can both be used as suffixes to indicate what period a class is taking place. Sankouji and sanjikanme both mean third period, for example. However, jikanme can also be used to indicate what hour or lesson of a unit your co-teacher is on. If your co-teacher uses both kouji and jikanme in the same sentence with different numbers, don't panic - he or she is likely indicating which period they're teaching with you, and which section of the unit they're on.

While hirugohan (昼ご飯) and the loanword ranchi (ランチ) can both be used to mean "lunch," you'll most commonly hear kyuushoku in schools. Kyuushoku can refer to both the lunch food and the mealtime itself.

Hiruyasumi (昼休み) refers to the post-lunch recess, while nakayasumi (中休み) refers to the mid-morning break that many schools have at around 10:30am. Natsuyasumi (夏休み) means summer break, and fuyuyasumi (冬休み) means winter break. If a teacher or student is absent, you might hear someone say "oyasumi desu."

Ichigakki, nigakki and sangakki are first, second and third term, respectively. First term runs from the start of the school year in April until summer vacation starts in late July. Second term is from September through late December. Third term is January until the end of the school year in March.

Meetings and Events

 
 
 
chourei
朝礼
before-school staff meeting
shuurei
終礼
after-school staff meeting
uchiawase
打ち合わせ
preparation meeting
kenshuu
研修
training
kunren
訓練
drill
shuukai
集会
assembly
shigyoushiki
始業式
start of term ceremony
shuugyoushiki
終業式
end of term ceremony
shucchou
出張
business trip or errand
kengaku
見学
study by observation, field trip
shuugaku ryoukou
修学旅行
overnight trip
katsudou
活動
activities
undoukai
運動会
sports festival

Notes

Chourei and shuurei are quick meetings usually reserved for announcements and other minor business. They happen once or twice a week, and while it's not standard for ALTs to participate, it's wise to at least stay out of the way when they're happening. New staff may also be introduced at these meetings, or a teacher may announce their marriage or maternity leave here.

Uchiawase can refer to anything from field trip planning to planning English lessons. Depending on your employer and contract type, you might not actually do uchiawase meetings with the school, and may instead receive instructions directly from your employer.

Typically, you won't be expected to participate in kenshuu, especially if it's all in Japanese. However, you may be expected to participate in fire or earthquake drills! Keep an ear open for the word kunren if you notice everyone leaving the building or hiding under their desks.

Shucchou can be used to refer to any kind of school-related business, like having to run to another school to consult with their staff. This will usually only involve one or two staff, and likely won't affect your work.

However, kengaku and shuugaku ryoukou will almost definitely disrupt your schedule at some point during the year. Kengaku usually refers to a daytime field trip, and can happen at almost any grade level. Shuugaku ryoukou is an overnight school trip, and at the elementary level, this often refers specifically to the special trip sixth-graders take in the fall. Depending on the area of the country the school is in, students may visit sites of historical and cultural significance, including the sites where atomic bombs were dropped in Hiroshima or Nagasaki.

Finally, keep an eye out for katsudou in reference to club activities (kurabu katsudou, クラブ活動) or student committee activities (iinkai katsudou, 委員会活動).

People

 
 
 
kouchou-sensei
校長先生
principal
kyoutou-sensei
教頭先生
vice principal
jimuin
事務員
clerk, office staff
jidou
児童
student
~nensei
~年生
~ grader
nicchoku
日直
daily leader
raikyaku
来客
visitor

Notes

While the literal word for principal is kouchou and the word for vice principal is kyoutou, you will likely always use these words with "sensei" after them. (There are occasions where you will hear others drop the "sensei," including when the principal and vice principal are introducing themselves.)

Depending on the size of the school, the jimuin may have a fairly large range of duties, including collecting school lunch money and ordering supplies. Be kind to this person, as they will be your best friend if you need to make flashcards or other materials.

Elementary school staff will often use kodomo (子供, child) to refer to students, but in more formal situations you will hear or see jidou.

Each class will typically rotate nicchoku duties among the students. Depending on the grade level, nicchoku duties may involve bringing the class to order, cleaning the blackboard between classes, or other light work. If you're ever in a pinch because your co-teacher disappeared and the students didn't hear the bell ring for class to start, just point to the part of the blackboard that says "日直" and someone will remind the nicchoku-san to do their job and shut everyone up.

Places

 
 
 
shokuinshitsu
職員室
staff room
jimushitsu
事務室
supply room
kyoushitsu
教室
classroom
waarudoruumu, eikaiwa ruumu
ワールドルーム、英会話ルーム
World Room, English Conversation Room
~shitsu
~室
room
taiikukan
体育館
gymnasium (building)
undoujo
運動場
playground
rouka
廊下
hallway
ikkai, nikai
一階、二階
first floor, second floor

When you're not in class, you'll generally be expected to be in the shokuinshitsu, where all teachers do the bulk of their grading and other work. Next to this room you'll usually find the principal's office (校長室 , kouchoushitsu) and the broadcast room (放送室, housoushitsu) but you won't be in these rooms unless specifically invited.

The jimushitsu is where you'll find most supplies, and where the jimuin is often working. Sometimes this room is locked when the jimuin is absent, so if you need something urgently, ask the vice principal or another staff member for help. Always check with the jimuin or another staff member before taking supplies.

On rare occasions, you might be invited to the library (図書室, toshoshitsu) or some other room for a club activity, but you generally won't have to worry about these. You'll have a hard enough time keeping track of what time to go to which classroom, unless you're lucky enough to have a "World Room" or other dedicated English classroom!

Other Words

 
 
 
shidou
指導
leadership, guidance
meate
目当て
goal, aim
junbi, yooi
準備、用意
preparation
kokuban
黒板
blackboard
isu
いす
chair
tsukue
desk
enpitsu
鉛筆
pencil
kyoukasho
教科書
textbook

Notes

Shidou can refer to discipline matters, as well as more benign and general leadership. If you hear that a teacher is shidouchuu (指導中), that may mean they're in the middle of lecturing a student! It's also used in the word shidouan (指導案) which refers to lesson plans.

While meate is commonly used when referring to the goal of a lesson, you may occasionally hear mokuhyou (目標) or nerai (狙い) used in similar contexts in schools.

Anything Missing?

While this list isn't intended to be exhaustive, please feel free to leave a comment if something major is missing! There may also be slight regional or other variations of terms on this list.

Questions & Answers

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment
      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 

        7 months ago from UK

        This is a useful dictionary for anyone looking at Japanese schooling.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://owlcation.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)