Teach Yourself Japanese
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Subject: Re: plain/polite and honorific/humble
From: TAKASUGI Shinji (tssf.airnet.ne.jp)
Date: Mon, 11 Sep 2000 01:35:10 GMT
References: 1, 2

I like Russell's explanation because it's clear.

One thing I have noticed when I heard some foreigners speak Japanese is that they use honorific/humble words too often. I understand you want to use a new word you have just learned (a good exercise), but using them too much doesn't sound natural. For instance, students never use honorific words when they talk about a teacher who is not there. I think only hosts having guests and shop clerks having customers commonly use honorific/humble words.

I also want to add that politeness to the addressee is shown grammatically while deference to the subject who is not the speaker and humbleness of the subject who is the addresser are shown by vocabulary. Memorizing honorific/humble words might be tough, but I think using them is not difficult.

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