Sonkeigo-words wrong translation

For example 召し上がる is translated as “to respectfully eat”, but isn’t that wrong? It would imply that the person eating is doing it with respect, but instead 尊敬語 is used to express the respect of the speaker to the person spoken about (in this example the one eating), elevating them.
In the Genki-book it is translated as “to graciously eat” which sounds weird to us but catches the actual meaning.


Yeah, I really didn’t feel like those translations made much sense.

Just so I wouldn’t have to guess, I added the synonym “to eat” for that one since I knew what it meant but didn’t want to guess if it were “graciously”, “respectfully”, “humbly”, or some other word. It just didn’t feel consistent with the definition I had in my mind.


Well, that’s not it either. The meaning is just “to eat”. 召し上がってください isn’t telling someone to eat in a respectful way, it’s telling someone, in a respectful way, to eat. I feel like it needs to convey the text and the subtext separately.


Ding ding ding! I agree totally. The nuance in Japanese doesn’t translate 1:1 that easily to English. The gloss of the card should be “to eat” and the note/description of the card should explain when the word is used.

尊敬語 itself needs definitely more explanation than a “graciously” or “respectfully”.

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Yes, in this case “graciously” doesn’t work, if it would transfer to the imperative, telling someone to “graciously” eat. Still a better pick in case of a description of a third persons doing than “respectfully”, which doesn’t make sense at all.

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The issue isn’t what adverb we’re using, it’s that we’re using an adverb at all - English word order implies that the adverb modifies the verb that immediately follows it - “to respectfully eat” = to eat in a respectful manner. Or a gracious manner or whatever. But the “respectful” subtext of 召し上がる doesn’t describe the manner in which the verb is performed, it describes the manner in which the verb is spoken by the speaker.

When you translate 申す as “to humbly say”, it kinda sorta works, because the speaking happens to also be the verb in this instance, but “to respecfully eat” or “to graciously eat” doesn’t really. If you really wanted to include the subtext in the translation you might go for “to eat (respectful)”, but now you gotta type brackets while answering, which is almost certain to cause an uprising around here. :stuck_out_tongue:


I know, but “graciously” is an adverb someone wanting to express their respect for someone elses doing would actually use to modify when describing the action, while “respectfully” is not. Therefore it is a better translation.
It is also more intuitiv when thinking about how to use the word. Because you could say about yourself you “respectfully eat” but not “graciously eat”. The latter sounds preposterous, which fits because you don’t use it for yourself.

As for changing it in wanikani, while using just “to eat” would be possible, that way it wouldn’t at all test the knowledge that it’s a sonkeigo-word anymore…

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Thanks for bringing this up. I’ll share all the feedback here with our content team to see if we’d like to make any changes.


I don’t see an issue with just changing the definition to “to eat.” There are a lot of words WK teaches that are uncommon/formal/literary and it’s up to the user to read the word’s info and keep that in mind. Like for 鋭敏, it’s just “sharpness,” not “sharpness (literary).”


Hey Everyone!

We have made some updates! I’ll post them here:

(27) - Updated the meaning mnemonic, and added “call upon” and “call over” to the allow list.

召す (51) - Added “to call” as the primary meaning, added “to take” and “to wear” as the alternative meaning, moved “to respectfully call,” “to respectfully invite,” “to respectfully eat,” and “to respectfully drink” to the allow list, added “to call on,” “to call upon,” “to call over,” “to eat,” “to drink,” “to put on,” “to invite,” and “to summon” to the allow list, added “to have” to the warning list, updated the meaning explanation, and updated the reading explanation.

召し上がる (53) - Added “to eat” as the primary meaning, added “to drink” as the alternative meaning, moved “to respectfully eat” and “to respectfully drink” to the allow list, added “to take,” “to drink or eat,” “to eat or drink,” and “to partake of” to the allow list, added “to have” to the warning list, updated the meaning explanation, and updated the reading explanation.

召喚(51) - Added “subpoena,” “subpena,” “summoning,” “call,” “calling,” “invite,” “inviting,” “call over,” “calling over,” “call upon,” and “calling upon” to the allow list.

召喚 (51) - Updated the meaning explanation.

-Nick at WK