2018年4月5日木曜日

Japanese phrases at stores

Long time no see! Hisashiburi!

One of the most difficult parts of Japanese is is keigo (polite Japanese). It’s representative of Japanese culture (or East Asian culture), where hierarchy and the relationship between employers and employees play an important role. I strongly feel that culture and its language play off each other in this respect.

As you know, Japanese people are taught to use keigo when speaking to those older than themselves, their superiors, customers, or strangers, so Japanese store staff can’t stop speaking that way even to children or non-Japanese people who don’t know keigo. That’s why you can’t figure out what they are saying and experience difficulties. If they spoke normally, you would understand them better.

Let’s have a look at some phrases store staff often use in the chart below. Normal sentences are written in the left column and polite sentences that store staff use are in the right column. Red text indicates keigo into which blue words transform.

Normal sentences
Polite sentences (keigo)
Chumon onegai shimas.
Can I take your order?
   Gochumon onegai shimas.
Koko de tabemas ka?
Will you be eating here?
  Kochira de omeshiagari des ka?
Wakarimashita.
I understand.
   Kashikomarimashita.
M size de ii des ka?
Would you like M size?
   M size de yoroshii des ka?
480 en des.
Your total will be 480 yen.
   480 en ni narimas.
500 en azukarimas.
I’ve received 500 yen from you./That's out of 500 yen.
⑥  500 en oazukari shimas.
20 en kaeshimas.
Your change is 20 yen.
   20 en no okaeshi des.
Shohin wa counter de dashimas.
We’ll give you the item at the counter.
   Shohin wa counter de odashi shimas.
Matasemashita.
Sorry to have kept you waiting.
   Omatase shimashita.
Card o motteimas ka?
Do you have a membership card?
  Card o omochi des ka?
Hukuro o tsukaimas ka?
Do you have your own bag?
   Hukuro o goriyo des ka?
Sumimasen.
I’m sorry./I apologize.
   Moshiwake gozaimasen.
Chotto matte kudasai.
Please wait a second.
   Shosho omachi kudasai.


In sentences 1, 6, 7, 8, and 9, the changes are minor. Only the honorific markers “go” and “o” are placed in front of words and verb endings are slightly changed, so if you know the normal sentences, it’s still easy to guess the meaning of the polite ones.
In sentences 2, 3, 4, 5, 10, 11, 12, and 13, the red and blue have the same meanings, but different words are used or else most of the sentences have changed. Thus, if you don’t already know the keigo words, you can’t guess what they mean.
“Tabemas ka?” becomes “omeshiagari des ka?” and “Sumimasen” becomes “moshiwake gozaimasen.”
They are completely different. You probably wonder why, but just need to accept that that’s how it is and learn the keigo words and phrases. You’ll get used to them if you live in Japan and hear them every day.

I’d especially like to explain sentence 5, “480 en ni narimas.” First of all, can “narimas/naru (become)” be treated as keigo? This is not a particularly polite word. However, when someone says “anata no kaimono no gokei kingaku wa 480 en ni narimas” (The total amount of your purchase will be/has become 480 yen), he or she is trying to avoid being too assertive. It gives a softer, nicer impression than saying “480 en des” (It’s 480 yen) does. The store staff is informing the customer of the amount in a reserved manner. Stores requiring a polite attitude towards customers without exception is representative of Japanese culture.

So, how should customers speak politely to store staff? Well, they don’t need to be super polite or rude. Just use normal Japanese. For example,
Coffee hitotsu to cheesecake hitotsu kudasai/onegai shimas. (Can I have one coffee and one cheesecake, please?)
M size/mochikaeri onegai shimas. (I’d like M size/take out.)
Hukuro wa kekko des. (I don’t need a bag, thanks.)
         And so on.

Also, store staff often ask the following questions.
Hot to ice, dochira ga yoroshii des ka? (Which would you like, a hot one or cold one?)
Kami no cup to tennaiyo no mug cup, dochira ga yoroshii des ka? (Which would you prefer, a paper cup or a mug?)
(Tabemono o) atatamemas ka? (Shall I warm up this food?)
Ijo de yoroshii des ka? (Is that everything?)
Please ask me about other expressions you always come across and can’t figure out in the comment section. 
Recently two of my students told me that "reshito (receipt) kekko des." was the most useful expression I'd ever taught them. I think I've taught them more important things, but apparently they need practical phrases!

Japan is famous worldwide for its high quality of service. I totally agree with this. I experience good service everywhere, but they often lack flexibility when something unexpected occurs. At supermarkets outside of Japan, I see store staff chatting with customers in a relaxed manner, but some staff don’t smile and look unsatisfied with their work. I think they are always honest.
 
 

2 件のコメント:

  1. me too, I totally agree with that and that's the sole reason I want to visit japan soon

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    1. I hope you can enjoy speaking some Japanese at shops when you visit Japan.

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