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How to Say Sorry in Asian Languages?

Posted by Kaylee Dao on August 18, 2020.

Have you ever been in a situation when you unconsciously offend someone or make a small but substantial mistake just by saying something? It happens! All cultures have different social norms and it is almost impossible to get everything right. And this is the reason why “I’m sorry” is one of the most important phrases you can learn in a foreign language. 

With such meaning, we prepare for you some ways to say sorry in Asian languages so you will not be caught tongue-tied when making an apology. So if you haven’t taken a close look at saying sorry in the Asian language, it’s time for you to swot up ahead of your trip.

1. Japanese

For everyday use, Japanese people usually say ごめんなさい (gomennasai) to apologize to someone. This is the most common way to say sorry in Japanese which you can use in almost every situation. 

Say sorry in Japanese

However, if you want to make it more formal, you should say すみません (sumimasen). 


2. Korean

Korean people use different ways to say an apology depending on the situations. With formal cases, such as saying to the seniors, they say 죄송합니다 (joesonghamnida) or 미안합니다 (mi-an-ham-ni-da). However, this phrase is not really common in everyday use.

미안해요 (mi-an-hae-yo) is a less formal form, which is used the most in Korean daily life. You can use it when accidentally bumping into people or stepping on others feet in a subway. Another way you can use to express your apology is 미안해 (mi-an-he). This is very casual and you can say it to your close friends or siblings.


3. Chinese (Mandarin)

Mandarin is one of the most difficult languages to master, but saying sorry in these languages is not that hard. We have several ways to say “sorry” in Mandarin Chinese, but let’s start with the most popular one – 对不起 (duì bù qǐ). It is used mostly in a formal situation or more serious mistakes when you truly feel regretful.

On the other hand, Chinese people usually say 不好意思 (bù hǎo yì si) which literally means “not good meaning” to make the apology a litter bit less extreme.


4. Thai

To say sorry in the Thai language, the most popular way is saying ขอโทษ (kŏr tôht). Don’t forget to add “ka” at the end of the sentence if you are female, otherwise, “krap” should be added.

If you go to a formal event or watch Thai television, you maybe hear another way to say “sorry” in Thai – ขออภัย (kŏr à-pai). It means to ask for forgiveness. However, this way of saying is super formal and rarely used in daily conversation.


5. Khmer

Even though many Cambodian, especially the youths, can speak English pretty well, it is still a good idea to learn how to say “sorry” in Khmer – the official language of Cambodia.

Som Dtoh (som-toe) is “sorry” in Khmer and it can be used in every setting, so pick it up before you land in the country.


6. Malay

If you go to Malaysia and unconsciously make the locals inconvenient or offend them, let’s say “Saya minta maaf” (I’m sorry) or “Maafkan saya” (Forgive me). In a very informal way, like when you hang out with your friends, just say “Maaf” is still acceptable.


7. Filippino

In common use, the Filippino often say “Pasensiya na” which literally means “please forget your anger” or “please let it go” rather than saying sorry. You can also say “Paumanhin po” (sorry) or more simply, just add the cultural lingo “po” into the English word “sorry” and say “sorry po”, then the locals will definitely feel your regret and respect for their culture. 


8. Burmese

If you have a chance to visit Myanmar and enjoy its impressive culture and architecture, saying “Wun neh ba deh” is the standard response when you offend someone.

Hoping that this article helps you know more ways to say sorry in some Asian languages, and maybe that “sorry” not only prevent you from being rude but bring for you some new friends, more special experiences in your destination or at least a smile from a foreigner that may become the best memory from your journey. Who knows!