18 Japanese phrases you can't watch the sports without

November 10, 2023

With empty stadiums and no cheering fans, the much-anticipated and delayed sporting event of 2021 will look a little different this year.

But don’t let that stop you from cheering on your favourite athletes! For those wanting to experience the event at home, our Japanese language experts here at Busuu have come up with a guide to understanding the Japanese commentary.

They’ve looked at the words most commonly associated with the event – think everything from words like “medal”, “gold”  “medal”, and “gold”, to niche sporting vocab, like “Velodrome” for cycling, “pool” for swimming, and “track” for all the races.

And to help sporting fans everywhere get to grips with Japanese pronunciation, our experts have provided phonetics. too. 

English speakers will find some of the words on our master list fairly straightforward to pronounce. “Gold”, for example, is pronounced “kin”, “silver” is “gin” (as in gingham) and bronze is “dou”.

Meanwhile, others are slightly trickier. The winner is pronounced “yuushousha” and the velodrome is “berodoroomu”.

Japanese Language Expert Maiko Miyoshi at Busuu shares her thoughts on the celebrations ahead: “The event will be much more low-key this year, but we can still enjoy all the great sporting moments from the comfort of our own homes.

“What those who normally attend the sporting event in person will miss out on is experiencing the Japanese culture – being in a different environment, witnessing a different way of living, trying new food and drink and, of course, learning the language.

“That’s why we’ve put together this guide. It’ll give armchair spectators the chance to learn some of the language and if they do hear the odd word in Japanese, hopefully they will understand it, too.

“Japanese is one of the hardest languages for English speakers to learn, but this is certainly a good place to start, while enjoying everything this much-anticipated event has to offer.”

Here are 18 Japanese phrases that you can’t watch the sports without 

EnglishJapaneseJapanese phonetic
SilverGin (not like ‘gin’ and tonic – like ‘gingham’)
Swimmerスイマー (or 水泳選手)suimaa (or suiei senshu)

Fun fact: the word, ‘senshu’ is a useful word, meaning ‘someone who was chosen to play sports’ etc. So anyone participating in the Olympics are ‘senshu’!
National Anthem国歌kokka
Gymnast新体操選手shintaisou senshu
Long jump走り幅跳びhashiri habatobi
Flag旗 (or national flag= 国旗)hata (or kokki)

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