Honorific Speech – Teineigo (First Article of Three)

2014 November 10
by Dani A

Japan has an amazing history and culture, and many of its customs, such as bowing to another person, are related to the concept of respect. In Japanese, there are 4 levels of speech that reflect this concept: casual/informal speech, polite language 丁寧語 (teineigo), respectful language 尊敬語 (sonkeigo), and humble language 謙譲語 (kenjougo).

The first two are pretty simple.

Casual form is used with people with whom you have an intimate relationship, such as friends, family, and significant others. In this form, the verbs are in short form and personal pronouns and some (or all) particles are dropped:

– 写真見ていい?= Can I see the photo?

– 夕べ食べ過ぎちゃった!= I ate too much late night!

Polite language is what everyone (everyone who uses the Genki textbook) learns first. This is the です and ます language and is used with strangers, acquaintances, etc. It is also the default language, especially when you don’t know how to speak in the respectful or humble forms:

– 写真を見てもいいですか。 = May I see the picture?

– 夕べ、食べ過ぎてしまいました。 = I inadvertently ate too much last night.

In these forms, the verbs are the same. No big deal.

The real struggle is learning sonkeigo and kenjougo, both of which are essential to learning Japanese. For English speakers, these particular levels honorific speech can be a nightmare, especially since there really is no equivalent in English. (Some might say that in English there’s only rude and less rude). Although you wouldn’t speak with your boss the way you would to your annoying sibling, the language is basically the same, much like the aforementioned casual and polite languages.

To start this dark quest of conquering the honorific speech, go to the following pages. 頑張ってください!

[Learning Honorific Speech – Sonkeigo]

[Learning Honorific Speech – Kenjougo]

 

 

 

 

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