Keigo, or language as a puzzle

Keigo, or language as a puzzle

We look at the use of Keigo in Japanese

Many anime fanatics learn Japanese to better understand their anime, especially because they want to stop reading subtitles, others dream of going to Japan and to speak it fluently with the Japanese. But learning Japanese is difficult for those of us that are English, we tend to struggle with three things: word order, particulars and Keigo (respectful language). Keigo can be difficult for even some Japanese, and be sure that it takes years of practice for many Japanese to correctly express themselves in the formal, honorific way too. To those that are learning Japanese we are sure this news is encouraging.

In the Japanese language, the levels of politeness are accommodated through alternative expressions, words and different verb endings. In Japanese there are five official forms of Keigo (1) ‘Sonkeigo’ which is the honorific language to elevate someone, (2) ‘Kenjogo’ which is humble language to lower yourself, (3) ‘Teineigo’ which is polite language ending in ‘desu’ or ‘masu’ (4) Teichogo which is a form of humble language that does not require you to be on the receiving end of an action, and lastly ‘Bikago’ which is beautifying language when ‘o’ or ‘go’ is put in front of a noun. And yes, these forms of polite speech are used differently depending on the situation. Then, of course, there is ‘konbini keigo’, an unofficial keigo that we spoke of a few weeks back, a form of Keigo only used at convenience stores

Keigo transforms words, especially when people start to learn advanced Japanese. Familiar words like ‘Suwaru’ (Meaning ‘to sit’) gets transformed into ‘okake’ and words like miru (to see) into ‘haiken’ or ‘kiku’ (to hear/ask) into ‘ukagau. Sometimes a language is like a great big puzzle and like all puzzles one must not give up, but persevere. Keigo should be seen as a challenge, not an impossibility and every keigo hurdle overcome, is an achievement. To all of those who journey with us on learning Japanese we say Ganbatte, go for it.

Here are a few tips and articles from AnimeFanatika to help you on your way to understanding Japanese better, please follow our links, after the description:

(a) Different ways of saying ‘no’ in Japanese –
(b) Ganbatte, the power of the cheer –
(c) Konbini, Japanese Convenience stores –

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