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The Various Degrees of Politeness

One important part of learning about the Japanese language AND culture is understanding and balancing the intricate (and many) levels of polite - normal - and rude speech.

To take a look at this, let's begin with a fairly unimaginative scenario.  You are confronted with your respected English loving Japanese boss who is up to his old tricks again. He refuses to speak to you in Japanese, only in English.  He is higher up in the rankings so you decide to should show him some respect and impress him with your skills at keigo! (polite speech)

GOAL:  Get your Japanese boss to speak nihongo & NOT English...  

Plan A:

YOU: あの、恐れ入りますが、ちょっと日本語でお話になっていただけませんでしょうか?
ano, osore irimasu ga chotto nihongo de o hanashi ni natte itadakemasen deshou ka?

"Uhmm... I am very sorry to have bothered you, but if perhaps you don't mind and it isn't too terribly hard on your brain cells, I'd like to ask you to speak in Japanese, that is, if you don't mind."  

RESPONSE: He says 「上手」 jouzu (very skillful) and continues his conversation in badly garbled English.   

Plan B:

YOU: 申し訳ありませんが、日本語で言ってもらえませんか?
moushi wake arimasen ga, nihongo de itte moraemasen ka?

I am terribly sorry and I have no excuses, but can't my humble self receive some Japanese from you O great boss?  

RESPONSE: He gives a distinct うん un and begins in Japanese only to quickly regress to a somewhat understandable English. 


Plan C:

YOU: ええと。。。 日本語で話して下さい。
eeto... nihongo de hanashite kudasai.

Ummm...  Please speak in Japanese.  

RESPONSE: He Ignores you.   Coffee cup in hand, your boss is polishing his English while you sit there at a loss for words.  Your mission is coming to a close and you have yet to accomplish even an inch of your goal.  What do you do?

  Tired of playing games, you decide to hit him where it counts!!

Plan D: The final insult...

YOU: 日本語を話せ!
nihongo wo hanase!

Speak Japanese!  

RESPONSE: He stops speaking English and Japanese and promptly fires you.  You go off to find a job with a boss who will speak only Japanese. 

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