Tips for Japanese Learners #8

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Apr 14, 2018 11:02 ForJapaneseLearners
I think one of difficulties for Japanese learners is personal expressions. There are so many personal expressions, so you may doubt if what you normally use is appropriate. Some of them are very common, but some Japanese people use them differently depending on the situation. That’s because your personal expression can be connected to how people take you. This time, I’ll show you how Japanese people are likely to take your self-description, I mean, the first person. The stars below are my personal evaluations.


「僕」(boku)

*For men
Friendly : ★★★★★
Work : ★★☆☆☆
Grown-up : ★★★☆☆

This is the most common personal expression for men. I bet some of you use this. In Japan, it’s used by many boys and gentlemen. Actually, it sounds innocent, friendly, and courteous. But, be careful that if you use 僕 at work, people could take you as childish. So, this first-person expression is a little tricky.


「自分」(jibun)

*For all
Friendly : ★★☆☆☆
Work : ★★★★☆
Grown-up : ★★★★☆

I’m apt to use this first-person expression. This sounds objective and neutral, at the same time, it could be left with a feeling of distance. That’s why, it’s not so good for when you talk with your friends. As a side note, some people use this for the second person.


「私、わたし」(watashi)

*For all
Friendly : ★☆☆☆☆(man to man) ★★★★☆(woman to woman)
Work : ★★★★☆
Grown-up : ★★★★★

If you are a woman, I personally think this is the best first-person expression. This is very common, so you can use it in many cases. But it’s a little tricky, because it could sound impolite in a situation like you talk to your customers. In that case, you can use “watakushi”, the same kanji of watashi.


These are common first-person expressions. But, here is the thing. Many Japanese people use their first-person expressions subconsciously. But, the other person is inclined to take your first-person expression as your character or your attitude. That is, it’s kind of a choice of how you want people to take you. In fact, some people choose their first-person expressions deliberately. But, even if you will try one of them, you had better use it just in writings like social media. Then, I’ll show you some first-person expressions for a tactics.


「俺、おれ」(ore)

This is used by men, and it sounds wild and free-spirited. If you’re a man who wants to appeal to women, it can be an advantage. At the same time, it could sound arrogant. If you see someone saying this at work, you had better watch out.


「あたし」(atashi)

This is a casual expression of わたし, and only used by women(or new halfs). It sounds cute and friendly, but air-headed. In a word, it’s the feminine counterpart of “俺.” I don’t recommend to use this in a formal situation.


「ぼく、ボク」(boku)

You know I referred to this just before. But, the point is that it’s hiragana or katakana, and used by girls. You might see girls who say this way in anime or lyrics. (this is kind of a thing about Japanese subculture, but a girl who says “ぼく、ボク” is called ”ボクっ娘.”) It sounds like a preferable gap, or innocent mind. That’s why this is super tricky, but it’s one of choices to show people your unique character.


「おいら、オイラ」(oira)

I know some comedians and celebrities use this, because it sounds comical and good to act the clown. In other words, it sounds super friendly, but of course you need to choose the situation you use.


「わい、ワイ」(wai)

This is the latest internet slang of first-person expression used in bulletin boards like 4chan. I hope you know what it means.


I bet that if you use one of them intentionally, serious Japanese people will correct it. I’ll write about honorifics sometime in the near future.



Thank you for reading my entry.
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