I couldn’t find a topic on this, but if there is one I am sorry
So basically, I am starting to try to speak to Japanese people in order to put what I learn into practice and to not lag behind in my (nonexistent) “conversation level”. And something that two of them told me was that I was too polite, but they couldn’t explain HOW I should know what level of politness to use because “it is just logical”… which of course it isn’t for my poor foreign brain (apart from the fact that textbooks mainly teach polite Japanese so that you don’t accidentally offend someone, so I’m not really always sure how to use casual Japanese)
So, I wanted to ask, how do you know when to speak casually and when to speak politely to a person? And how do you know WHICH level of politness you have to use with said person?
For example, from what I had understood, you have to speak with people older than you in a more polite way, but how much older than you do they have to be? And does whether you’re a girl or a guy have any sort of influence on the politness of your speech?
Anyway, any help would appreciate it, maybe if people living in Japan have any idea?
Also, this is my first time creating a topic woohoo and I have no idea what I’m doing lol
Be careful with this, though. If you’re in a work environment, for example, and your boss or even boss’s boss comes at you with “casual” language, that should not be your cue to also switch to casual Japanese in most cases. (I still struggle with this because generally what comes to mind first is what I hear around me, so separating levels of politeness can be a real challenge.)
This is really true, but there is one minor and optional exception: dealing with other people’s kids. You can certainly use 丁寧語 with kids, but it’s kind of off-putting for everyone involved. Maybe other people will disagree with me about it.
Quite. “Speak to them as they speak to you” is not the rule of thumb. It’s “speak to them the same way your peers speak to them”.
The difference between “polite” and “formal” or the difference between “strangers” and “people with higher social standing”?
If the former, “polite” is です／ます. “Formal” is keigo, full on fancy verbs and so forth. ご覧になる and いらっしゃいます and such. The sort of language that the guy behind the register at the local kombini uses with you (because in that situation, the customer has the higher social standing).
I have had this problem a lot talking to the neighborhood kids xD They get so confused at how they should respond when I talk to them in polite language.
In general though @NatElf, you should consider this an advanced problem. Adults will not be offended at a foreigner making mistakes in what level of politeness to use. I make mistakes literally all the time and it doesn’t cause problems. The only situation where you need to make sure you are not making mistakes is when talking to customers. I don’t think you are in this situation yet, so don’t worry and go ahead and make mistakes.
for simple guidelines on the situations to use which politeness, the above posts cover it.
I have been told that by japanese people (in response to foreigners using -Sama ironically), so I imagine that extends to formal speech in dissonant situations. Think about it, in English if you receive an order and reply with “yes, Master” or a more jocular term, “your wish is my command”, that would also come off as snarky in most cases.
I wouldn’t call myself an expert on this by any stretch, but my teacher explains the difference as a way to create or close distance with the person you are talking to, so I keep that in the back of my mind when trying to decide which tone to use. For example you may want to close the distance with your peer group or coworkers as you get to know them, but keep a professional distance with a superior or stranger.
Too bad these two rules can sometimes seem contradictory! I have a Japanese friend who is about 10-14 years older than I am. She is pretty cool (used to work as a music manager for Japanese reggae/ska bands). She floats somewhere between casual and neutral/polite Japanese with me, but I try to keep to neutral ます/です, mostly. She is also a Japanese teacher, and has told me she will flat out tell me when I make big mistakes.
I also go to convo clubs in Amsterdam, and the Japanese conversation partners have once strongly reminded me to use ます/です (this was years ago). But they are also 10-30 years older than I am.
People I knew before I started learning Japanese, and occasionally speak/text in Japanese with, I also try to keep to ます/です, as they do the same with me. Kids I try to stay casual with, which is hard, especially if their parent is in the room, and having a three way conversation!
My teacher has always said (paraphrasing here), stick to neutral/polite, unless you are so close that you spend time together (outside of work) potentially at least 3 times a week, and you’re also roughly the same age.
But it can also heavily depend on the individual’s character. Teacher for example has couple friends, of who the wife very quickly switched to casual speech, but the husband steadfastly kept speaking neutral, to the point where his wife called him out on it. But he said he just was that way.
That’s right. By way of counter example, someone could try casual speech on a new acquintence in his or her social circle and gauge how interested that person might be in developing the relationship toward friendship by whether the response is casual or polite. I think that is what those people meant by “it’s just logical”