尊敬語, Part 1

I'm working on the exercises for Genki II, Chapter 19. That's the chapter on 尊敬語(そんけいご)or keigo. At first it felt like a whole new way of speaking and writing Japanese. It is but it's not really.

So a lot of books including Genki and Marugoto provide charts of words we've learned and the keigo words which correspond to those words. What's nice about his link is that it's for Japanese who need to know keigo in their workplaces. I'm told that native Japanese don't really learn keigo in their school years so they learn it shortly before they're looking for jobs.

Learning keigo can seem daunting. After I posted my lesson work to chat, Chang San remarked, "Ohhh, yeah, this is very hard." It's nice to know that I'm in good company.

What's confusing about the charts is that the words aren't arranged for pattern recognition. Yes, there are words we just have to memorize but here's a way I've made it easier for myself.

The words we need to memorize are the following.

Chart of five keigo words and their equivalents
辞書 丁寧語 尊敬語    
食べる
飲む
食べます
飲みます
召し上がる めしあがる  
寝る 寝ます お休みになる おやすみになる  
見る 見ます ご覧になる ごらんになる  
くれる くれます くださる   くださます
する します なさる   なさます

I began with the word, 食べる, because I like to eat and 召し上がる sounds onomatopoeiac: it sounds like eating or mushing food in your mouth. The rest of the words are in a random order. They're the first ones which came to my head as I was writing them into the chart.

Look how お休みになる uses words we already know. This is easy, too.

Then ご覧になる reminds me of becoming a goron for seeing. This is a reference to a quest chain in , my favorite game of all time. So it's another easy one for me.

Notice how くれる converts to a word which is similar to one we already know, くださる. I've always wondered why we use ください for requesting things. Now I know.

That leaves only する in the chart. Luckily, we had just completed a section in Marugoto B1 where we listened to long conversations in which conjugations of なさる were spoken over and over. Mike and I were both confused as to what the speakers were saying until we parsed out all of the words. So this is another easy one.

Note how くださる and なさる conjugate. See the い underlined in the conjugations? Terrific! Yes, the い in these words conjugate exactly as the song says it will. The い in 〜ます form conjugates to って, woo hoo!! So far, so good.

Now comes the trick I use to remember the rest. First, look at this chart.

Chart of three keigo words for the memory trick
辞書 丁寧語 尊敬語  
いる
行く
来る
います
行きます
来ます
いらっしゃる いらっしゃます
〜ている 〜ています 〜ていらっしゃる 〜ていらっしゃます
言う 言います おっしゃる おっしゃます

Notice how the first two words look similar. They both have the 〜いらっしゃる ending. The て at the beginning of the second word is just the same て from the word for which it substitutes. Once you know how to conjugate いらっしゃる, it's easy. For those of us who need reinforcement, the underlined い serves as a reminder to change い to って when congugating to .

The last word, おっしゃる, has a smaller part of the 〜いらっしゃる ending. It has only the 〜っしゃる part. But this makes it easy, too. All I need to remember is to tack on お to the beginning and I'm off and running. Since 〜っしゃる contains the part which conjugates, we already know how to do that from above. whew! Not so bad, right?