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Uki Uki Chat! – Okinawan Language

Today we're discussing the islands of Okinawa and their distinct languages and dialect with Okinawan dancer and singer, Ms. Junko Fisher.

Okinawa has more than 160 islands between Kyuushuu and Taiwan, stretching over 1,000 km.

Throughout the islands, there are region specific languages, three of which are:

Uchinaa guchi/kutuba – Okinawa Language (main islands)
Yaima kutuba – Yaeyama Language
Miyaaku kutuba – Miyako Language

With the spread of Standard Japanese throughout Okinawa, many of these unique languages are hardly spoken in daily life today. This has led to a distinct dialect(s) of Standard Japanese spoken throughout Okinawa.

Examples of Uchinaaguchi (Okinawa Language)

Tea: ocha (Standard) – ucha (Uchinaaguchi)
Parents: oya (Standard) – uya (Uchinaaguchi)
Sake – sake (Standard) – saki (Uchinaaguchi)
Karate – karate (Standard) – karati (Uchinaaguchi)
I, me – watashi (Standard) – wan (Uchinaaguchi)
Good morning – ohayou gozaimasu (Standard) – ukimisoochii (Uchinaaguchi)
Welcome – irasshaimase/youkoso (Standard) – mensooree (Uchinaaguchi)
Hello – konnichiwa (Standard) – haisai (Uchinaaguchi)
Very – totemo/sugoku (Standard) – deeji (Uchinaaguchi)
Okinawa – Okinawa (Standard) – Uchinaa (Uchinaaguchi)

“Thank you” in Okinawa

Standard – arigatou gozaimasu
Uchinaaguchi – nifeedeebiru
Miyaaku kutuba – tandigaatandi
Yaima kutuba – nifaayuu

The native languages of Okinawa have been labeled by UNESCO as endangered languages. We hope that continuing efforts will be made to preserve the beautiful native languages of Okinawa for future generations.

Learn Japanese language and culture with Japan Society in a series of new fun and simple lessons! For more videos like this, check out the Uki Uki NihonGO! series on YouTube.

This video was originally published on September 16, 2015.