Foreigners who are learning Japanese, many of you may face the situation of difficulty to distinguish
“Honorific Japanese” and “Casual Japanese” while having a conversation.
When is the timing to use “●●san?” or how to use “Keigo?”
Once you get to know this style, you will feel much easier to have communications and relationships with Japanese people.
There are 3 rules for honorific Japanese as follows:
1. Respectful Language （Sonkeigo 尊敬語）
This style is used when you’re talking to someone “Older than you” or “Higher class people” to give them your respect.
2. Humble Language （Kenjougo 謙譲語)
This style is when you’re talking to someone, “You make yourself humble toward the person” and show them your respect. Same meaning as to be modest.
3. Polite Language （Teineigo 丁寧語）
This style is when you’re talking to someone, “Trying to make the words as polite sound to listeners”
Here are 5 simple examples of honorific Japanese and casual Japanese in your daily life.
Once you understand the logic of this style, you’re ready to go on for the next step in Japanese.
1. When Meeting People
When you meet someone and say hi, you must use different expressions as follows:
Pattern1: Talk to Unfamiliar Person
□Readings: UENO-*SAN, OHAYOU **GOZAIMASU, HAJIMEMASHITE.
□Translation: Good morning, nice to meet you.
* This is used as the general meaning of honorific style.
Same meaning as calling that person with a title such as Mr., Mrs., Miss and Ms. English has several expressions but we just add “SAN” for both men and women.
** This is used as polite language and need to be added after OHAYOU.
If you don’t use this style when you talk to someone you just met, he/she thinks you’re rude and over-friendly.
Pattern2: Talk to Someone You Know as Close Friends
□Readings: OHAYOU, HISASHIBURI *DANE!
□Translation: Morning, good to see you again!
* This is used as casual Japanese. If you add this after HISASHIBURI, this makes more casual and friendly way of expression.
You can say without “DANE” as well but it makes more feel close if you use “DANE” especially for girls.
2. Working at the Office
If you’re working in a Japanese company, you must be careful how to talk especially with your boss.
Not only using an expression like “Sir”, there are several ways of talking such as follows:
Pattern1: Talking with your Boss in the Office
□Readings: HI, ARIGATO *GOZAIMASU. SHORUI KAKUNIN YOROSHIKU
□Translation: Yes, thank you very much. Please kindly check through the documents.
* This is used as an elite language to give your respect to your boss.
** This is used as humble language original word from ITASU.
***This is used as polite language. If you add expression as ITASHIMASU, this includes the meaning as
“Thank you for giving me your time to check through my documents”
Pattern2: Talking with your Colleague
□Readings: ARIGATO, YOROSHIKU *NE
□Translation: Thanks, take care of the rest.
* This is used as casual Japanese. Adding “NE” at the very end, this makes more friendly way of talking.
3. When you Bump into Someone
Pattern1: Bump into Unfamiliar Person
□Readings: SHITSUREI! *SUIMASEN!
□Translation: Woops, I’m sorry, excuse me.
* This is used as polite language and original word from SUMANU.
Pattern2: Bump into Someone You Know as Close Friends
*This is used as causal Japanese. Most guys say “GOMEN” and girls say “GOMENNE”
“NE” makes more soft sounds.
4. When Shop Clerk is Talking with Customers
Pattern1: Talking with Unfamiliar Person
□Readings: OHASHIHA, *GORIYOUNI NARIMASUKA?
□Translation: Would you like to use wooden chopsticks?
*This pattern is used as respectful language. Originally the word from RIYOUSURU.
If you add “GO” and “MASUKA” as above, this shows the respect.
Pattern2: Talking to Someone You Know as Close Friends
□Readings: OHASHIHA, *RIYOUSURU?
□Translation: Do you need wooden chopsticks?
*This is used as casual Japanese. Without using any “GO” before “RIYOU” you can see it’s not honorific style.
5. When you Answer “YES” while Talking to Someone
Pattern1: Say Yes to Unfamiliar Person
□Translation: OK, I understood
* This pattern is used as humble language.
Original word is “WAKARU” which means understand but if you say as humble way, there are 2 ways patterns such as above. You can say either way.
Pattern2: Say Yes to Someone You Know as Close Friends
□Translation: Ok, I understood
This pattern is used as casual language. Original word is “WAKARU” and changed to “WAKATTA” as past tense.
You can add “YO” at the end as well, meaning is still the same.
Do you think you get it for now the difference of honorific Japanese and casual Japanese in your daily conversation?
Step by step, try to use these pattern expressions and you will gradually can talk as natural.
Keep up Japanese!