anibee's Guide to Nifty Japanese Words 101! (Vol. 9)

Accents & Dialects - Kansai-ben Focus!

With a country as vast and large as Japan, people from its various regions, states and cities are bound to end up speaking their own variations of the language. One such dialect is ‘Kansai-ben' (関西弁). Kansai-ben is the general term used to describe a group of dialects spoken by people who live in the Kansai region. This counts Nara, Kobe, Kyoto, and of course, Osaka.

Kansai-ben was the original de facto standard Japanese during ancient times when places like Nara and Kyoto were the capitals of Japan. Although its use in official means has diminished greatly with the adoption of modern Tokyo-dialect Japanese, Kansai-ben is still the 2nd most prevalent dialect in Japan.

Kansai-ben has received a lot of attention in modern times today partially thanks to the general perception of people who use it being of a more jovial, whimsical, and often comical and less 'stiff' nature as compared to their Tokyo-dialect counter parts. This is why Kansai-ben is commonly used for comedy manzai (漫才) duos, and of course, anime!

Kansai-ben varies from standard Japanese in many ways, from subtle, to (often) very dramatic! Many things are often modified:

"What are you doing?":
Tokyo Japanese

何しているの?

Nani shiteiru no?


Kansai-ben

何してんねん?

Nani shiten nen?

"Oh no!":
Tokyo Japanese

しまった!

Shimatta!


Kansai-ben

あかん!

Akan!

And sometimes, words are entirely unique or extreme conjugations of existing ones!


"So-so I guess...":
Tokyo Japanese:

まあまあだな。

Maa maa da na.


Kansai-ben:

ぼちぼちでんな。

Bochi bochi denna.

The amount of changes and variations are absolutely staggering! So the next time you watch an anime, take a good listen to that quirky character - there's a chance she might be speaking Kansai-ben!

- Q

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