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さん、君、ちゃん

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さん、君、ちゃん

Postby astaroth » Sat 02.14.2009 2:30 pm

Hi everyone,
I don't know whether this is the correct forum, for I'm not living in Japan and (unfortunately) not planning to visit anytime soon, but there's this question that is bugging me for quite some time now about the various Japanese suffices.
Watching anime and dorama I think I have a little grasp on how Japanese people use the suffix to call one another, but from there to actual use the step is for me quite big. I've been using lang-8 for a couple of weeks and now I have a small network of friends with whom I chat quite regularly. I add to their names さん, but I'm wondering whether this adds a sense of detachment from my side; few people are around my age and so if they were Italians, I'd go straight with the informal you (tu) without thinking I'm impolite, but cultures are different ... also I think I should really avoid experimenting with informal Japanese, since even the polite one is still a bit rocky.

So my question (and sorry for the long post) is should I use 君? Should I keep using さん? Would this, using さん I mean, be felt like I'm keeping a distance (for it would be if someone my age would use lei in Italian while talking to me)?

Thanks, Luca
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Re: さん、君、ちゃん

Postby furrykef » Sat 02.14.2009 3:03 pm

Often a good idea is to watch what they do and imitate them (except when there is an obvious disparity between you two, for instance if you're talking to someone much older). Though that could backfire a bit if they're doing the same thing. You could look through their comments and see how they address other people, though.

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Re: さん、君、ちゃん

Postby richvh » Sat 02.14.2009 3:46 pm

I know it's radical, but you could try asking them how they would prefer to be called. Alternatively, write a journal entry explaining that, because you're worried about giving offense, you call everyone -さん but would like to be able to call some of them ちゃん or くん.
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Re: さん、君、ちゃん

Postby astaroth » Sat 02.14.2009 8:17 pm

Thanks for the suggestions. I'll try to write a post about it and see the reaction.
Some switched to causal speech (タメ語 I think it's called in Japanese, please correct me if I'm wrong), but I guess some wait for an indication from me ... :) I guess I would have the same problem in situations when it's not clear whether to use informal you and both of us is waiting for a sign from the other.

I have a quick question about くん. I see Rich wrote くん instead of 君, which I understand can also mean きみ ... what is used for the suffix? The kanji 君 or the kana くん?

[edit] I forgot ... is くん ever used when addressing women instead of using the more common ちゃん or さん?

Thanks, Luca
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Re: さん、君、ちゃん

Postby Infidel » Sat 02.14.2009 8:30 pm

it's all context.

name君 should be read kun. 君 by itself is most likely kimi.
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Re: さん、君、ちゃん

Postby richvh » Sat 02.14.2009 8:34 pm

astaroth wrote:I have a quick question about くん. I see Rich wrote くん instead of 君, which I understand can also mean きみ ... what is used for the suffix? The kanji 君 or the kana くん?


Either one can be used (though the kanji would be read くん when appended to a name).

[edit] I forgot ... is くん ever used when addressing women instead of using the more common ちゃん or さん?


Yes. It is sometimes used in settings where ちゃん would be too intimate - in classes (先生 to 学生) or offices (上司 to 部下).
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Re: さん、君、ちゃん

Postby coco » Sat 02.14.2009 10:09 pm

This topic might have some clues.
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Re: さん、君、ちゃん

Postby astaroth » Sun 02.15.2009 12:39 am

Thanks for the reply.
cocoさん、thanks for the link.

(Before posting I actually searched in the forum thinking the topic should have been raised at least a couple of times, apparently I searched using the wrong "criteria" ... :oops: )
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Re: さん、君、ちゃん

Postby ILuvEire » Sun 02.15.2009 3:40 am

I just use さん and call it good.
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Re: さん、君、ちゃん

Postby astaroth » Sun 02.15.2009 11:45 am

ILuvEire wrote:I just use さん and call it good.

Which is what I'm doing, but there are situations when that's a little too much, also it's not just the title but the entire language that is different (using 丁寧語 instead of タメ口).
You speak Italian so you know the difference between "lei" and "tu". One can keep using "lei" when addressing people, but the risk is to sound distant and cold, and a friend of mine, who studied Japanese in college and went to Japan right after, told me her Japanese friends felt the same when she was keeping using 丁寧語 with them.
Anyway I'll just go with a straight question ... :)
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Re: さん、君、ちゃん

Postby ILuvEire » Sun 02.15.2009 2:42 pm

Oh, I didn't know it was like that! I thought "san" was just basic and that you could change them to change the feel of your sentence, not formal/informal.

In that case, I think I'd just ask them what they'd prefer to be called. It's what I do in Italian.
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Re: さん、君、ちゃん

Postby astaroth » Sun 02.15.2009 3:19 pm

Honestly I don't know whether 丁寧語 is really equivalent to "formal" you or "lei". This is what it feels to me when I think about, but I could be very well possibly wrong.
I think most of the problem is the complete absence of formal and informal speech in English. (It does exist but in a more subtle level than in other languages, Europeans included -- which is by the way the reason it took me a while not to think all Americans are impolite.)
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Re: さん、君、ちゃん

Postby farly » Sat 03.14.2009 6:59 pm

astaroth wrote:I think most of the problem is the complete absence of formal and informal speech in English. (It does exist but in a more subtle level than in other languages, Europeans included -- which is by the way the reason it took me a while not to think all Americans are impolite.)


Complete absence is a bit a big word. Even americans call you by your last name if the situation is such. British people alot more so too. I have to deal with english speaking customers, and believe me, formal speak is VERY important. Languages used in business are most often alot more formal than everyday speak, german and english are the same there. One of the challenges of my job is to find out, which level of formality the customer feels comfortable with.

Back to your topic though, I also feel sticking to the a bit formal さん can make you being perceived as a bit stiff. Just like others suggested I would ask those whom you feel closest to. Or go by your feeling. I think japanese dealing with us 外人 are kinda used or even expecting us to make some blunders sometimes. So you could also just ちゃん a female you feel close with, or くん a male, and see how it feels all over. Their reaction, how you feel etc. gives some clues in my experience. Of course one has to hear the grass growing, as we say in my language. Which is fun to me, but not necessarily to others too :)
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Re: さん、君、ちゃん

Postby astaroth » Mon 03.16.2009 11:41 am

farly wrote:Complete absence is a bit a big word. Even americans call you by your last name if the situation is such. British people alot more so too. I have to deal with english speaking customers, and believe me, formal speak is VERY important. Languages used in business are most often alot more formal than everyday speak, german and english are the same there. One of the challenges of my job is to find out, which level of formality the customer feels comfortable with.

You right "complete absence" was a bit of a stretch. What I meant was that in English there is no formal, grammatically distinct form for polite and informal speech. Actually it's the only language I know of which lacks of a T-V (for European languages) or 丁寧語・タメ語 (for Japanese) distinction.

And since we are here.
I also know that you is the formal, while thou was the informal, and one could also say that English is indeed a fairly "polite" language, since it uses polite speech even among friends and family. But my experience is that who knows English and starts learning a different (European) language tends to use informal speech much more commonly than formal. I had a friend who knows a bit of Italian and met my parents for the first time; he was using tu (informal you) for them, giving me the "Are you calling my parents お前?"
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Re: さん、君、ちゃん

Postby two_heads_talking » Mon 03.16.2009 12:03 pm

astaroth wrote:
farly wrote:

And since we are here.
I also know that you is the formal, while thou was the informal, and one could also say that English is indeed a fairly "polite" language, since it uses polite speech even among friends and family. ?"


You have that backwards thee, thine, thy and thou are formal.
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