Would I just use わるい? Or is there a more specific word for being unskilled at something?

私の日本語は悪いです。< Would something like this suffice?


You have several ways to say "I'm bad at Japanese". The most common (and direct) ways to say it would be:

  • 私は日本語が[下手]{へた}です。(lit. As for me, Japanese is poor.)
  • 私の日本語は下手です。(lit. My Japanese is poor.)

悪い is a literal translation of the English "bad". In Japanese, you don't use 悪い to say you're bad/unskillful at something.

You could also express it as "I'm not good at Japanese":

  • 私は日本語が[上手]{じょうず}ではありません。(lit. As for me, Japanese is not good/skillful.)
  • 私は日本語が[上手]{うま}くありません。(lit. As for me, Japanese is not good.)

Depending on what you're bad at, you could also use [苦手]{にがて}, which is closer to "weak":

  • 私は[料理]{りょうり}が苦手です。(≂ 私は料理が下手です。)
    I'm bad at cooking.
  • 私は[泳]{およ}ぎが(or[水泳]{すいえい}が)苦手です。(≂ 私は泳ぎが/水泳が下手です。)
    I'm bad at swimming.
  • 私は数学が苦手です。(but not 私は数学が下手です。)
    I'm weak at maths.
  • 私は英語が苦手です。(When talking about English as a school subject, use 苦手. You don't use 下手 for school subjects.)
    I'm weak at English.

This time you can rephrase them as "not good/strong at~~" using [得意]{とくい}:

  • 私は料理が得意ではありません。
    I'm not good at cooking.
  • 私は数学が得意ではありません。(but not 私は数学が上手ではありません。)
    I'm not strong at maths.
  • What makes 私は数学が下手です less natural sounding?
    – A.Ellett
    Jul 27 '17 at 0:58
  • @A.Ellett そうなんですよね・・・ I don't know why but we don't use [下手]{へた}, [上手]{じょうず} for school subjects.. You'd use 得意, 苦手 instead.
    – Chocolate
    Jul 27 '17 at 1:01
  • 1
    Actually, that's as much as an explanation as I need. I would imagine then it's the difference between a skill (an ability to speak) as opposed to persevering through the tedium of a class or lecture.
    – A.Ellett
    Jul 27 '17 at 1:04
  • One "gotcha" to remember is that 苦手 can be used to express dislike, especially for food. 私は肉が苦手です is a valid way to say beef doesn't agree with you. Jul 31 '17 at 20:27

Well, you could just use 下手{へた} that is basically the opposite of 上手.

So basically you could say 私は日本語が下手です。

To add one more you could probably use 苦手{にがて} as well, which means "poor (at something), weak, unskilled" etc. So you would say 私は日本語が苦手です。

  • What about まずい?
    – A.Ellett
    Jul 27 '17 at 0:37
  • 1
    Never heard it in that context, but a native speaker would know better. Maybe I could add 苦手 to say that you are not good at it.
    – Tommy
    Jul 27 '17 at 0:39
  • OOh, I like that. I hadn't thought of that one. Add it for sure. :-)
    – A.Ellett
    Jul 27 '17 at 0:41
  • About mazui, I have a feeling it wouldn't sound so natural although the meaning would be probably clear. Maybe a native speaker could comment on this.
    – Tommy
    Jul 27 '17 at 0:43

I think the most natural would be


lit. My japanese is really not very good.

  • How about reviewing words like 下手{へた} and まずい for a more complete answer?
    – A.Ellett
    Jul 27 '17 at 0:33

Actually 下手 (the kanji opposite of 上手) is a common way of saying you are not very good at something.


Alc reference here:



My teacher told me using 上手 with yourself sounds pretty bad. There was another expression but I can't find it anywhere.

  • 1
    I would guess you're thinking of 得意. Have you looked at the other answers?
    – user1478
    May 11 '18 at 14:38

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