関西弁 (Kansai-ben, “Kansai dialect”) is the most common dialect in Japan apart from the Standard Japanese (標準語, ひょうじゅんご). This article explains some unique words and idioms in the Kansai dialect, which you probably won’t learn from a Japanese textbook!
For the essential grammar rules of the Kansai Dialect, see Essential Grammar in Kansai Dialect (関西弁, Kansai-ben)
1. あかん (akan)
あかん is one of the most common and important words in the Kansai dialect. Basically, it means “bad” or “you shouldn’t/can’t …”, and it is a synonym of “駄目 (だめ)” in the standard Japanese. For instance, when you say to your parent that you want to skip school for no reason, she/he would answer “あかん”, meaning “You can’t”.
Refer to the previous post below for a more comprehensive explanation.
2. ほんま (honma)
ほんま is nearly equivalent to “本当 (ほんとう)” in the standard Japanese. It has two usages as follows:
(i) real (na-adjective)
Is that story real?
I’m really sleepy
I’ll tell you the real thing (truth).
* Although 本当/ほんま is categorised as “na-adjective”, it modifies a noun as “本当/ほんま+の”, not “本当/ほんま+な”.
(ii) really? (short response)
A: I’ve finished the assignment already.
Similarly, “ほんまかいな” is a classic Kansai expression to use when you are surprised and doubt someone’s statement. It is often used by more than middle-aged men.
I saw Beat Takeshi (Takeshi Kitano) yesterday in Umeda.
Wow, are you sure?
3. ええ (ee)
In the Kansai dialect, “ええ” is equivalent to “良(い)い” in the standard Japanese.
もうええよ = もういいよ (That’s all good already/Don’t worry)
ええシャツやん = いいシャツだね = (That’s a good shirt)
ええこと言うなぁ = いいこと言うね (You say such a good thing)
In particular, it is often used as “ええの?” meaning “Is that good?/Are you sure?” or “ええやん” meaning “(That) sounds/looks good”, where “やん” is a very common sentence-ending particle used for emphasis in the Kansai dialect.
4. ちゃう (chau)
ちゃう has two meanings as follows:
(i) ‘differ’, ‘not correct’ (verb)
This meaning is equivalent to that of “違う(ちがう)” in the standard Japanese.
1. 全然ちゃうやん = 全然違うね
That’s not correct/totally different.
Something is not quite right/is different
(ii) ‘not be …’ (sentence ending)
This usage is equivalent to “じゃない/ではない” in the standard Japanese, and it is often used when you make a negative question e.g., Isn’t it …
1. ええんちゃう？ = いいんじゃない？
Isn’t it good?
2. 欲(ほ)しかったの、これちゃう = 欲しかったの、これじゃない
What I wanted is not this.
Famous Enigmatic Conversation in 関西弁
Do you think you have mastered how to use ちゃう correctly? Then, let’s decipher the following conversation in the Kansai dialect:
Well, while this conversation is obviously made enigmatic deliberately, it does perfectly make sense for Kansai people (this is also a well-known joke among them). The translations into standard Japanese and English are as follows:
A: あれ、チャウチャウ じゃない？
Isn’t that Chow Chow ( = a dog breed)?
B: 違う違う、チャウチャウ じゃないよ
Nah Nah (that’s not correct), it’s not Chow Chow.
In the first sentence, ちゃう means “じゃない” (not be …), and in the second sentence it means ” 違う’.
5. なんでやねん (nandeyanen)
なんでやねん (nandeyanen) is probably the most important phrase in the Kansai dialect, esp, in Osaka. It is usually used when you hear someone doing or saying something foolish (on purpose, or not), and you use this word to react to their silly remark/behaviour. This is called “ボケ (boke)” and “ツッコミ (tsukkomi)”, where ボケ means makeing a foolish comment and ツッコミ means the reaction, which often involves hitting their head or showing one’s anger/surprise at ボケ. This way of communication is an essential part of the Japanese humour, especially in the Kansai area.
I’ve bought you a souvenir in Japan!
Oh really? Thank you so much!
Here it is, Marmite!’ ( ＝ ボケ: foolish comment)
B: なんでやねん！これ日本のお土産ちゃうし！（＝ツッコミ：reaction to ボケ）
‘What the heck?’ This is not a Japanese souvenir!
6. わい/ワイ (wai)
わい/ワイ is a traditional first-person pronoun in the Kansai dialect, and it evokes the image of old blokes in the Kansai area. However, recently young people use this term on the Internet to sound casual and playful. Surprisingly, some young girls allegedly started to use it in reality to refer to themselves (inside and outside the Kansai area), which would sound very strange to real Kansai people because of its atypical usage.
I wanna go too!
Do you know where my bag is?
7. 自分（じぶん, jibun）in the Kansai Dialect
Originally, 自分 (じぶん) refers to 1st person, or ‘oneself’ in standard Japanese. In the Kansai area, it is also used to refer to 2nd person; however, note that this usage can sound a bit too friendly or rude and should avoid using it in a formal situation e.g., when talking to your boss.
自分のノートパソコン: My laptop
それ、自分でやったの？: Did you do it by yourself
Unique Usage in the Kansai dialect
これ、自分のやろ？ This is yours, right?
自分、何してんの？ What are you doing?
8. ~ 回生（~ かいせい, kaisei）
To describe year at school, “年 (ねん)” or “年生（ねんせい）” are always used in standard Japanese. However, people in Kansai use these terms only before high school, and once they enter university, they start to use “回(かい)” or “回生(かいせい)” instead.
一年生 (いちねんせい) : 1st-year at school
一回生 (いっかいせい) : 1st-year student at university
四回生 (よんかいせい) : 4th-year student at university
自分、いま何回(なんかい)なん？ : Which year at university are you in now?
9. 遠慮のかたまり（えんりょのかたまり, enryonokatamari）
遠慮のかたまり (えんりょのかたまり) is a unique word in the Kansai dialect that means “a last piece of food on a shared plate”. It indicates the last portion on a plate that people are hesitant to reach for — e.g., a last slice of pizza on a plate—, because they don’t want to be viewed as an ignorant glutton.
See the previous post below for a more comprehensive explanation!