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Japanese honorific language


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I never really mastered the use of the elevated keigo in Japanese. Once my cousin was in Japan and happened to ask a Buddhist nun the way to a particular shrine in the Kyoto area. She told him something and kept asking "Go-zonji desu ka? Go-zonji desu ka?".

He was a bit confused and (hours later, after managing to locate the shrine) asked me if I knew what this meant .I told him "Go-zonji desu ka?" is the keigo or honorific/elevated form of "Shitte imasu ka?".

Here, "go-zonji da" is used as a repectful way of asking if you know or are familiar with someone or something.

Anyone else have any other examples of keigo usage in real life?

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I honestly do not have an other example of keigo on my fingertips ( However, I would like to point out that the honorific language is one reasons why I personally think that Japanese is much harder than Chinese. In Chinese, of course there are also different registers, but not to the extent as it is the case in Japanese. As far as I know korean is also pretty demanding when it comes to the use of different registers (honorific forms are highly developed in Korean as well). What is interesting about Korean is the korean script, aka Hangul (Hangeul). It is said to be the most logical and probably most practical alphabet ever created. It would be interesting to have some native Korean speakers in here to discuss this topic. We would certainly have to open a new thread for that. This thread is reserved for "keigo" of course.

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Japanese is definitely much more complex than Chinese it its grammar especially when it comes to honorific language. There are several levels, if I can remember and the choice of which one to use is affected by things like the age and social position of the person that one is talking with. There are also types of keigo used to "elevate" the person being spoken to and to "lower" the speaker. Yes, it's all very complex and I am sure that Korean has a system similar to this as well.

I agree, the Korean alphabet is a precise scientific and phonetic marvel compared to the mix of kanji, hiragana and katakana that the Japanese use. You could learn to read (but not necessarily understand what you are reading, of course) Korean hangul in one or two days, but take years to do  the same in Japanese.

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In my Japanese book, there are 3 types of respect language: honorific expressions, extra-modest expressions, and humble expressions.

I'm having a lot of trouble memorizing the different honorifics verbs and when to use which type of respect language. Can someone give me some tips on how to memorize and learn Japanese keigo? Is there a less painful way to learn keigo other than just plain memorizing?

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This is one of the hardest part in learning Japanese (aside from Kanji).

It would be best if we have a native Japanese speaker in here. I am able to talk to a lot of Japanese (because I work as a part time English tutor) but I don't get to ask them about Nihongo. But I'll try to invite some of my students to join here. :)

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If you can invite some of your students to join, that would be great! We don't really have a lot of activity in this part of the forum so any help would be appreciated.

Recently, I have been reviewing my keigo and I understand it a little better now. I'm still a little shaky, but if I keep practicing, I think I'll get the hang of it.

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I have already invited one of my students and he is still yet to visit the site. :) But if you guys have LINE, you can add him up!

By the way, I noticed that LINE is the most popular messaging app in Japan especially among teenagers. :)

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The best way to learn keigo is to get used to using it in everyday circumstances (therein lies the problem, if you do not live in Japan, then it will be difficult to find people who are fluent in it to practice with). In Japan for example, shop assistants and company receptionists are usually well-versed in keigo. I usually have trouble understanding highly formal Japanese.

For learners, while there are many regular rules, in general keigo can also be highly irregular and involves memorising a lot of new vocabulary.

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Even in Japan though, you would only use keigo towards those who are considered "above you" (teachers, boss, etc.). So unless you are constantly around those people, you won't have a chance to practice your keigo.

Actually in my Japanese book, it says American students studying Japanese are better at keigo because they actually study it and memorize how to use it. Some Japanese students in Japan still get mixed up with keigo because they use regular speech too much.

Unfortunately, I'm not one of those American students who excel in Keigo, lol. OTL

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Is the correct way in keigo to say "Sensei, can I come visit your house?"

先生のお宅にうかがいでいただけないでしょうか?

This was totally on my test today and I have this huge feeling I got it wrong  :sad:

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