GET Staff Blog

May 24, 2016

How to start a conversation with someone on a train who seems lost…


Welcome to our GET Blog! We’re very excited to launch this blog and share with you our tips, tricks, and knowledge about learning English and Spanish. We’re going to be sharing lots of useful language every month that you’ll be able to use immediately.

Thanks for joining us!



First up is “How to start a conversation on a train with someone who seems lost.”


Tokyo is a massive city. Here in Japan, some people might be used to it but visitors to Japan have probably never experienced anything like it. Getting around Tokyo’s huge subway system, in particular, can be a challenging and tiring experience.


I’m sure you’ve seen some tourists staring up at the subway map and looking lost, and maybe you’ve wanted to help them find their way.


So today we’re going to introduce some natural phrases for you to start a conversation with someone a train who looks lost and how to help them out.


SCENE: On the Yamanote Line. Someone is staring at the train map and looks confused. You decide to be a friendly local and help them out.


YOU: “Excuse me.”   あなた:「すみません」

Use this phrase to get someone’s attention. ※このフレーズは注意を引くために使います。

YOU: “Do you need some help?” あなた:「なにかお手伝いしましょうか?」

Use this phrase to ask them if they need help. ※このフレーズは助けが必要か聞くために使います。

■YES!   (「はい!」の場合)

VISITOR: “Oh yes. Thank you! I’m trying to get to Kagurazaka Station.”


YOU: “Kagurazaka?Hold on a second. I’ve heard of it. Let me check my phone.”


VISITOR: “Really? Thank you so much!” 観光客:「ほんとに?ありがとうございます!」

YOU: No problem. あなた:「全然かまいませんよ。」

After you check your phone… 携帯で調べてから・・・

YOU: “OK, so get off at Takadanobaba Station. Then take the Tozai Line to Kagurazaka. It’s the 2nd stop.”


VISITOR: “Okay I think I got it. Thanks so much for your help.”


YOU: “No problem. Have a good day.” あなた:「大丈夫ですよ。良い一日を!」

YOU: “My pleasure. Have a nice day.” あなた:「どういたしまして。楽しんでね!」

VISITOR: “Thanks, you too.” 観光客:「ありがとう、あなたもね!」

■NO!   (「いいえ!」の場合)

YOU: Excuse me. Do you need some help? あなた:「すみません。何かお手伝いしましょうか?」

VISITOR: Uhhh, I think I’m fine. Thanks anyway. 観光客:「う〜ん、大丈夫です。でもありがとう。」

YOU: Sure, no problem. あなた:「了解、問題ないですよ。」


Key Phrase

1) Can I help you? / May I help you? vs. Do you need some help?

Can I help you? / May I help you?


These phrases are mainly used by shop staff. They’re not really used between people in daily interactions. これは主にショップ店員が使います。日常的なやりとりにはあまり使われません。


2) Do you need some help? (何かお手伝いしましょうか?)

This phrase is more commonly used between people in daily interactions when offering help.


3) I’m trying to get to Shimo-Kitazawa. (下北沢に行こうとしています)

‘get to SOMEWHERE’ = ‘get to’ is a more casual and more common way of the verb ‘arrive’. I never really use the verb ‘arrive’, instead I use ‘get’.

「get to場所」はarrive(到着する)を、より一般的にカジュアルに言う表現です。arriveよりずっと使います。

Ex. The train was delayed so I got to my office at 9pm. (電車が遅れたので、オフィスには9時に着いた)

It takes more than two hours by train to get to Kyoto from Tokyo. (東京から京都に行くには電車で2時間以上かかる)

4) Hold on a second. (ちょっと待って)

This phrase is a little more casual than using “Please wait a minute.”

A shop owner would say to a customer “Could you please wait a minute?”

But in our scenario, YOU are helping the VISITOR, so you could just say “Hold on a second.”

「Please wait a minute.(ちょっと待ってください)」よりカジュアル。お店の人がお客さんに言う場合「Could you please wait a minute?(少々お待ちいただけますか)」。ですが上記ではあなたが観光客をお手伝するので「Hold on a second.(ちょっと待って)」ぐらいでOK。

5) I’ve heard of it. (聞いたことがあります)

Something that you’ve heard before. Maybe you don’t know too much about it but you have some knowledge of it.


6) Let me check my phone.(携帯で調べてみます / 携帯で確認させて)

This phrase is a casual way of saying “Please wait while I DO SOMETHING.”


Ex. Let me call the restaurant to check if they’re open today.

(今日営業しているかどうか確認するのでレストランに電話してみます / 電話させてください)

Let me check the weather before we go out. (出かける前に今日の天気を確認させてください)

With these phrases, a bit of confidence, and a friendly smile, you’ll be able to help out struggling tourists all over Japan. They’ll definitely be thankful for your help!


Have you ever helped any visitors? Has someone helped you when travelling? Do you have any more phrases to share? Do you have any requests for something you’d like to know more about? Please share them in the comments section! We’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas.




Thanks for reading and see you soon!