How do you even speak in a "funny" way in Japanese?

Something I’m really struggling with is making light-hearted conversation in Japanese.

For example, if someone in their profile writes that they are studying English, and you talk with them you could say:

I see you’re studying English.

Or you could be a smartass and say.

Call it a hunch if you will, but years of experience as a private investigator and international spy make me think that you are interested in language learning.

It is easy to pull off with people that already know you, and know you are prone to sarcasm and other jokes, but with someone you just met it is quite hard. I wonder if this is just a case of learning more local jokes that you can eventually mix into your speech? It does feel like the written language is more limited when it comes to these kind of expressions, where your tone cannot give the joke away. But maybe it’s just my lack of experience.

Anyway, if anyone knows anything I’d appreciate the lesson!

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Probably not the answer you were hoping or looking for, but with a lot of exposure and probably trial and error too.

Being funny in japanese as a foreigner is really quite easy if you ask me. However, speaking in japanese in a funny way with accuracy and intention is actually a part of very high level output in my opinion. Because thats not about having a funny reaction, story, or thing that you said. Its about how you say it at that point, and thats really fucking hard to get down pat without a very high level.

Even in your native language, I’m sure you’ve met some people who aren’t that funny, and some people who can tell the same exact story as the unfunny person and make it hilarious. Knowing the word choice, when to put in pauses, how to describe things, in what order to reveal information, and where to inflect your voice to say something funny is really something funny people do well. And figuring out all those things for a completely different language is hard enough, not to mention you’re speaking to people who probably have a different sense of humor to some extent.

So in short, speaking in a funny way to japanese people in japanese is actually really hard and you just need massive exposure to funny people to be able to do it yourself. Your best bet is just having funny material rather than funny delivery. I wouldn’t try to get too creative with your jokes, honestly.


Yeah, good points. I can be pretty good at it in 2 languages, but Japanese still eludes me. I’ve managed to do a handful of things work, but it is like 1% of the output I can manage my other languages.

My take (which you should take with a massive pinch of salt because I haven’t spoken with anybody in Japanese for years!) is that it’s perhaps also to some extent a high level thing because all the other not-being-funny stuff you’ve said before has to have been sufficiently on-point for the listener’s first reaction to your funny bit to be something other than “oh, they don’t quite know the right word/I guess they meant to say X/I’m not sure what their point is”, i.e. for them to assume “deliberate humour” rather than “language learner error”. That also makes it harder to do with somebody you’ve only just met.


fwiw you may not have spoken with japanese people in years, but I speak with them every day and couldn’t agree more! This is absolutely true. The reality is, people have probably made a lot of really funny witty comments, play on words, and references on purpose that were lost on the listener because of this. Honestly even within english it happens. I tend to make very ridiculous boke comments with a straight face, so if I’m not careful and do it with someone I just met they won’t even realize its a joke and think I’m an actual crazy person.


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