Politeness question.

Post questions and answers about living or visiting Japan or the culture
Post Reply
User avatar
flammable hippo
Posts: 885
Joined: Sun 03.19.2006 4:29 pm
Native language: English
Gender: Male

Politeness question.

Post by flammable hippo » Mon 10.16.2006 4:56 pm

I was wondering, let's say your talking to your boss or someone like that, of course one would use some form of keigo while speaking. Then he/she introduces you to his child who is about 5 or 6. You want to say hi and maybe ask the child a few questions but would you talk to him/her in plain speech since he's a child? But at the same time is the child of a person who you have to speak politely to. Do you use the regular です・ます forms but then again that would be kind of strange.

So how would you talk to the child of someone you're supposed to respect/be polite to?

The reason I'm asking is because I volunteer at a nature center and one of my jobs is to help visitors/customers with various things such as showing them animals/etc and usually there are a bunch of little kids there with their parents. One day a Japanese couple came in and I could tell that they were Japanese since I overheard (ok, I eavesdropped...) them speaking Japanese. Anyhoo, they had a daughter with them who was probably no older than 7 and so while they were there I was thinking to myself "hm, if I go over there and introduce myself in Japanese, should I use keigo, wait I don't know that much yet (even though I know a lot now), if I ask their daughter if she wants to see any particular animal should I talk informally or will that insult her parents? Or do I speak like I would to regular strangers using the regular ますforms, or would that seem a little too unfriendly? So, unfortunately, I decided to stick with English during their stay.
Last edited by flammable hippo on Mon 10.16.2006 5:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Oyaji
Posts: 1334
Joined: Sun 04.30.2006 9:57 pm

RE: Politeness question.

Post by Oyaji » Mon 10.16.2006 8:57 pm

You are an adult and they are a child, so you can use plain (though not "familiar") speech to them, but you should speak with a respectful, friendly attitude.

Of course if they are simply a customer, speaking in normal polite speech (ーます、です) would not be inappropriate.
Last edited by Oyaji on Mon 10.16.2006 9:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
flammable hippo
Posts: 885
Joined: Sun 03.19.2006 4:29 pm
Native language: English
Gender: Male

RE: Politeness question.

Post by flammable hippo » Mon 10.16.2006 9:14 pm

so it would be perfectly fine for me to say to the kid "こんにちは、元気?どんな動物が見たい?これ、へび。 名前はレモン。"? and then turn to her parents and say ”へびを見たことがありますか?どうぞ。大丈夫ですよ。彼は全然さしません。”?
Last edited by flammable hippo on Mon 10.16.2006 9:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Two muffins were baking in an oven. One turns to the other and says "sure is hot in here." The other replies "AH TALKING MUFFIN!"

二つのマフィンがオーブンで焼かれていた。片方のマフィンがもう一方のマフィンに向かって、"暑いね”と言った。すると、話しかけられたほうのマフィンは"アッ!喋るマフィンだ!”と驚いた。 :)

User avatar
Harisenbon
Posts: 2964
Joined: Tue 06.14.2005 3:24 am
Native language: (poor) English
Location: Gifu, Japan
Contact:

RE: Politeness question.

Post by Harisenbon » Tue 10.17.2006 12:03 am

plain (though not "familiar") speech
こんにちは、元気?どんな動物が見たい
This is famillar speech. Don't drop your ですs.
The general rule of thumb as I've seen it written is you speak as politely as possible while still conveying your message. Children won't understand させていただきます, but they will understand します。 There's no reason to use する 。

Your speech to the parents is standard polite Japanese, not keigo, by the way.
彼は全然さしません。
i won't stab you at all? :o
Want to learn Japanese the right way? How about for free?
Ippatsu // Japanesetesting.com

User avatar
Oyaji
Posts: 1334
Joined: Sun 04.30.2006 9:57 pm

RE: Politeness question.

Post by Oyaji » Tue 10.17.2006 4:12 am

Yes, 「元気?」 is definitely familiar speech. Reading through it again, it seems my post is in the wrong order. Let me try again. (Harisenbon's answer is more than sufficient, but I feel a responsibility to clarify my post ;) )

It is perfectly appropriate to speak to them in normal, polite Japanese. However, as long as your attitude is friendly and respectful, there should be nothing wrong with 「やってみる?」「上手だった」「あの鳥見える?」 and such. If you are unsure though, err on the side of politeness. Of course being *too* polite will make you look silly, but that applies when you are speaking to adults as well.


Oh, and snakes かむ they don't さす. ;)

User avatar
Mike Cash
Posts: 2737
Joined: Sun 08.20.2006 3:38 am
Native language: English

RE: Politeness question.

Post by Mike Cash » Tue 10.17.2006 5:24 am

In actual point of fact, the Talking Dog 現象 applies here.

It wouldn't much matter what politeness level you chose, the fact that you spoke in Japanese would be all they would focus on.

(Nobody would notice how well a dog spoke, since they'd be too busy being fascinated that it spoke at all).

User avatar
two_heads_talking
Posts: 4137
Joined: Thu 04.06.2006 11:03 am
Native language: English

RE: Politeness question.

Post by two_heads_talking » Tue 10.17.2006 10:45 am

I a case of which should I do and which should I not do? Always error on the side of being too polite. It may sound odd to you, and your friends might not want you to speak so politely, in which case they will let you know you don't have to be so formal, but it is much better to be too polite than not polite enough..

The same goes for English.. saying yeah man when asked to do something by a superior at work may seem cool to your buddies, but your boss might fight it even the least bit offputting and that could be the end of you.

richvh
Posts: 6480
Joined: Thu 09.29.2005 10:35 pm
Contact:

RE: Politeness question.

Post by richvh » Tue 10.17.2006 10:52 am

After looking at the edict entries, I take it that さす is for insect bites and the like?
Richard VanHouten
ゆきの物語

User avatar
Oyaji
Posts: 1334
Joined: Sun 04.30.2006 9:57 pm

RE: Politeness question.

Post by Oyaji » Tue 10.17.2006 11:27 am

Yes, 「刺す」(さす) is what spiders, mosquitos, bees, scorpions, jellyfish, and thugs do. "sting" "prick" "stab".

「噛む」(かむ) is what animals, snakes, and babies do. "bite".

Post Reply