Say what?

Note: This is an article on “Katakana English,” instances where Japanese versions of English words have different nuances or, in many cases, completely different meanings.

In English, we can say, “I had an interview for a job.” Or we can say “The reporter has conducted interviews with a number of celebrities.”

In both cases, we can use the English word “interview.” In Japanese, however, we would use two different words: 面接 (mensetsu) and インタビュー (intabyuu).

面接 is for “application interviews.”

mensetsu interview1

The first word that I learned for “interview,” way back when I had all my intro to Japanese grammar books and nerdy dreams of Japanese fluency. This young douche:

This pic was taken at a sweet hostel that I stayed at in Nikko. The owner was a Buddhist monk, and he took us to look at waterfalls. Ah, to be a student again...

This pic was taken at a sweet hostel that I stayed at in Nikko. The owner was a Buddhist monk, and he took us to look at waterfalls. Ah, to be a student again…

I spent years in Japan thinking that 面接 (mensetsu) was the universal word for “interview” in Japanese, all because none of my dozens of books, teachers, friends, etc. took five seconds to tell me that this word is a bit different than the English word “interview.”

面接 (mensetsu) is the word used when talking about an interview for some sort of application, usually a job or school “interview.”

For you word nerds, you might be interested in looking at the kanji for 面接.

面 means “(the) face (of something).” If you follow my awesome kanji guide, you’ll get Heisig’s keyword, “mask.”

接 means “touch” or “touching.”

To interview someone is, you could say, “to touch their mask.”

Example City:


ashita baito no mensetsu nan da.
I have a job interview tomorrow.

If we translated this sentence directly using our beloved Japanese-English dictionaries, we might get something like “tomorrow / part-time job’s / interview / is.”

Note that バイト (baito), short for アルバイト (arubaito), will usually get translated to “part-time job.” But a バイト is not necessarily “part-time.” In other words, it could very well be a 40-hour per week job. The main difference is that it is a job “without benefits.” A job without a salary, insurance, and so on.


hikkishiken no ato wa mensetsu ga arimasu.
There is an interview after the written exam.

You can also say 面接がある (mensetsu ga aru), “to have an interview,” like in this example.


mensetsu ukeru no kinchou suru.
I’m nervous for my interview.

This example uses the verb 受ける (ukeru), which I could (and probably should) write an extremely long article about. Basically it means “to get; to receive; to undertake; to be given.” If you 受ける (ukeru) a 面接 (mensetsu), then you’re going to “get interviewed.”

Note also that we’re dropping particles like crazy in this sentence. If you saw this in a Japanese textbook, it would probably say something like this:

mensetsu wo ukeru no ga kinchou suru.
I’m nervous for my interview.

We’re dropping を (wo) and が (ga), partly because it’s just easier to drop particles in a casual conversation. Us students spend all of these years studying them, and then Japanese people just drop them out of their sentences. Life is cruel like that.

インタビュー is for public interviews.

interview interview1

They also have a katakana version of the word “interview” in Japanese: インタビュー (intabyuu).

I used to think that this word was just used when Japanese people wanted to use katakana English (which they do, at times, use pretty randomly).

Alas, no…

The word インタビュー (intabyuu) is used for public interviews.

For example, “interviewing” a famous author, actor, or politician on TV would NOT be a 面接 (mensetsu). Rather, it would be an インタビュー (intabyuu).

Examples or it didn’t happen:


nooberushou jushousha no intabyuu mita?
Did you see the interview with that Nobel Prize winner?

Again, we’re dropping particles here. Specifically, we don’t have an を (wo) before our verb 観た (mita), “watched; saw.”


machikado intabyuu sarechatta!
I was approached on the street for an interview!

Watch a Japanese “variety show” for forty seconds, and you’ll probably see some random person on the street getting interviewed about something. I was interviewed like this once, because I was sitting around like a vagrant hoodlum at 3 a.m. in Shibuya.


ashita jimoto no sakkaachiimu ni intabyuu suru koto ni natteru kara, shitsumon takusan youi shinakya.
I’m interviewing a local soccer team tomorrow, so I need to prepare a bunch of questions.


saishinsaku no eiga ni tsuite burapi ni dokusen intabyuu!
We have an exclusive interview with Brad Pitt about his latest movie!

I love how this affectionate Japanese term for Brad Pitt: ブラピ (Burapi).

Mastering the Nuances of Japanese

…is only for boss kids like you.

I also heard that you guys like stuff like this:

Guaranteed to bossify your life even more. (Yes, it’s possible!)

Good luck with your studies, everyone,



Yo! I'm Niko, the founder of NihongoShark. I'm also a Japanese translator, writer, and all-around language nerd.

I created this site to help as many people master Japanese (any language, really) as possible.

Uh, what else? Well... I live in Tokyo, Bangkok, Sapporo, Saigon, San Diego, Tokyo, Chiang Mai, Portland, Oregon! So if anyone wants to meet up for a refreshing nama beer, I'm probably down for that. Or a coffee. Learning Japanese is tricky-tikki-tavi. But we're in this together. ファイト!

Good luck with your studies!


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