Word choice - Informal Speaking

When I am informally speaking to Japanese friends, there are a lot of times that:

  • The word that I used is too polite for the situation (翌日 → 次の日, 解雇する → 首にされる)
  • After trying to expose my super kanji and vocabulary knowledge (sarcasm), they actually use a カタカナ version (話題 → ポッピク, 合法 → リーガル).

Given time, I get more used to using the less formal or “katanized” words, but I wondered if anyone has found a way to quickly identify that, i.e., how formal is a word (if that’s possible to evaluate anyhow) or, given the meaning of a word and sentence, if there was a place that could suggest more often spoken words, such as a katana versions. This could help to quickly adapt to different levels of conversations.

Or maybe the personal trial-and-error approach is better suited for this kind of learning?


Parallel Note: I’m also curious about the possible Natural Language Processing (NLP) things that could be applied to this problem, Maybe word/text formality classification and recommendation :smiley:


Jukugo, especially with on readings, in general feel more formal than words with kun reading. Your example is 解雇する → 首にされる, this is a bit like if you say “terminated” vs “sacked” in English. “Terminate” is borrowed from Latin, “sacked” is from Old English.


Did you mean トピックス? I heard this used often on the news and in anime. ニュースーのトピックス, for example.

For some words it’s possible-ish. When you scour Jisho, you might notice that some words have outright formal translations or just sound formal. Some are also marked as “sonkeigo” (尊敬語 - honorific/respectful speech) or “kenjougo” (謙譲語 - humble speech) For more casual words, light novels and manga are a good place to start, because there characters usually speak fairly casually.

As for katakana words, these are present in semi-formal articles online as well.


This must be that new kana


I know that informal speech is usually more sharp, but…


Deadly speech version! :sweat_smile:
Thanks, corrected


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