My Relationship Using Casual and Polite Japanese — 3 Comments

  1. I feel that this is my problem. I am teaching myself and I am worried about being too formal with someone. I am had thought of taking a Class before I study abroad to see where my Japanese is and to learn when to be polite.

    • I shouldn’t worry about this too much. This may well be bad advice, but in my experience just let the Japanese person you’re speaking to take the lead and, depending on the situation, copy what they’re doing! They’re going to able to judge the situation much better than you, after all. It’s probably better to be too polite than to seem overly informal!

      As an example, I was reading a manga on the train from London to Brighton when a guy about the same age as me sat in the neighbouring seat and we struck up a conversation because he knew the manga I was reading (ピュ-と吹くジャガー, but we mostly talked about すごいよ!!マサルさん). His English was really good, but he immediately started out using the plain form when he spoke in Japanese, whereas I, meeting a new person, used the ~ます form. Role reversal, almost.

      This was an unusual situation that would almost never happen in Japan, so things worked a little differently than they would have otherwise. Learning to judge a situation, or just know your place, is important. Anyway, you should’ve seen the faces on the people around us when two random strangers suddenly started speaking a foreign language on a busy train!

  2. This has gotten me thinking on how I need to learn the plain tense. Since when I started immersion, I wanted to be liked so I fell into ます

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