It’s one of those phrases that I wanted to say in Japanese about 7,650 times in the first few years of my Japanese.
But, seeing as how I’m too lazy to look things up ever, I took way too long to learn this one. Even now, I’m not too smooth at busting out the Japanese equivalents I’ll be explaining in this post.
Who knows, though, maybe writing this will bossify my Japanese a bit more.
Saying “Guess what?!” in Japanese
I’m kind of tempted to say that there are no direct equivalents to “Guess what?!” exactly, in Japanese, but there are some pretty similar constructions.
Giving Japanese Friends Quick English Lessons
One of the best ways to get on a Japanese person’s good side is to teach them some English. So here’s a really easy one that 99% of Japanese speakers don’t know: How to respond to “Guess what?!”
In English, conversations usually go one of two ways.
A) Guess what?!
That’s pretty standard, yeah?
Then we also have…
Joking Boyfriend Backfire Convo
A) Guess what?
B) You’re moving to Antarctica.
A) No, seriously. Shut up and listen. Why can’t we ever just have a serious conversation? You think everything’s just a joke! You pig!
Long story short, you can teach Japanese friends to say “What?” in response to “Guess what?!” and then proceed to force them to repay you with 34 hours of Japanese lessons.
(Later in this article I’ll look at naturally responding to these things.)
After you teach your Japanese homies how “Guess what?” works, you can then have weird Japanese-English hybrid convos like this:
One of the most common ways to get someone’s attention in Japanese would be to use the te-form of the firm 聞いて (kiite), which literally translates to something like “Listen (to me).”
Note: Be very careful with the following phrases, because they differ quite significantly depending on gender.
(Literally: “Hey, listen.”)
How the Fuji am I supposed to know what’s feminine language?!
This is actually one of those things that you’ll pick up naturally over time hearing lots of different guys and girls speaking Japanese.
However, here’s one free tip:
Elongated ね (ne) sounds are almost always feminine. Usually these will be written like ねえ (nee) or ね～ (ne~). Be especially careful of the ね～ version, because this ～ mark indicates that the tone of the speakers voice goes down and then up, holding out the え sound at the end of the word. Super feminine. Also…
Double ねえ sounds super feminine, too. Just to be safe, most guys should just avoid saying ねえねえ in front of any sentence… although you’ll hear a lot of girls do this when getting someone’s attentions.
Saying ねえねえ before the sentence above would give it a more excited nuance:
nee nee, kiite
Hey, guess what?!!
Males tend to use なあ (naa) instead. Sometimes the shorter, sentence-ending な (na) can also have a masculine ring to it. However, I’ve yet to get a full mastery of “the male な,” and sometimes I can feel that I’m overusing な. This was especially a problem when I was at an upper-intermediate level, and I still hadn’t gotten a sense of gender differences at all. I’ll try to think of more ways to explain this in future articles (it’s kind of difficult, though).
naa, kiite kure yo
Hey, guess what?
So feel free to throw those two sentences in front of just about any (good or exciting) news that you’d like to tell someone.
Saying “Wanna hear something cool?” in Japanese
The phrase that I want to introduce here is not actually all that close to “Wanna hear something cool?” If I wanted to say that phrase exactly in Japanese, I’d probably say:
いい こと しりたい
ii koto shiritai
Wanna hear something cool?
(Literally: “Want to know something good?”)
That doesn’t really have the nuance that the speaker is holding some unknown, (almost secret) information, which is what we have in English’s “Guess what?” For that, we might say…
いい こと おしえて あげる
ii koto oshiete ageru
I’ll let you in on a little secret.
(Literally: “I will (do you a favor and) teach you something good.”)
There is a very significant, though subtle difference between the phrase above and one that ends with ～ようか (you ka):
いい こと おしえて あげようか
Wanna hear something cool?
(Literally: “How about I teach you something good?”)
This second phrase has more of the sense “Wanna hear something cool?” Whereas the first one sounds a little snobbish, almost like, “I think I’ll give you a good bit of information.”
Fretting About Nuances and Perfect Phrasing
…is not worth your time. I know that these articles talk a lot about very tiny differences in Japanese, but that’s mostly because I think that it’s very useful for understanding Japanese to hear explanation of subtle differences. Still: You don’t need to worry about small stuff when communicating in Japanese.
It took me a long time to get a sense for these differences, and I still mess them up all the time. Who cares, yeah? Part of the beauty of learning a language is noticing when you’ve started to get a sense for its subtleties, nuances. You start to notice when someone’s being little rude to you, maybe underestimating your language ability. You start to understand when someone is telling you something… without telling you something.
If all of this seems intimidating, just don’t worry about it.
You’ll get there, yo. One day at a time.
p.s. If you like learning about Japanese stuff, you should probably sign up for the newsletter. I only send one email every couple of weeks (if that), and it’s always packed with tons of tips about Japanese. Also, you get this: