Ken Cannon here, Ok so I think I should talk about what I mentioned in the first post about there being two different types or versions of Japanese. Formal and Casual
Most classes, books, programs etc. teach strictly formal Japanese. The reason they do this as I said before is because it is considered rude if you use the casual form with strangers. And they figure if you are learning a new language, then all people whom you’re going to use it on are most likely going to be strangers.
And yes as you have probably heard, Japanese are very concerned with being polite.
There is also another reason, the casual form is considered to be harder than formal to learn. Therefore in order to not “scare” new learners off they teach the easy form first.
However as much as I can understand this thought process, it does in fact make learning Japanese harder in the long run. Because casual it not only just another type of Japanese, it is actually the root of the formal version. In other words, it acts as a prerequisite. So in skipping this prerequisite it may indeed make learning Japanese a bit easier in the short run, but in the long run everything just becomes more confusing, because you’re missing that base understanding of the language.
In fact I think that this is the reason most people assume casual Japanese is harder, because of the backtracking that must be done in order to connect it to the formal version.
So it’s for this building block reason that I promote learning the casual form of Japanese first. And then after, if you want to learn formal Japanese (which you definitely should) it’s like a walk in the park.
Now I’ll explain the real differences between the two versions.
Fortunately the differences can be summed up pretty easily; it lies mainly in the verbs. So to keep things simple, casual verbs typically end in “u” and formal verbs end in “masu”
Now let’s take a look at some examples so you can observe the difference for yourselves
First I’ll use the very common anime word “To die”
In its casual form it looks like this,
And in its formal form,
Notice they both contain the root “shin” but differ only in “u” and “i-masu”
Let’s examine another verb, to kill
Again you can see they both contain the root “koros” and differ in the “u” and the “hi-masu”
Let’s look at one more example, “to fight”
Root: tatak causal: “au” formal: “imasu”
So now hopefully you can sort of grasp the basic difference between the two forms.
Unfortunately it doesn’t end there though. The type of verbs you just learned are called the “present tense”, now whenever you’d like to change the tense of a sentence or express a different meaning other than simply “I kill” or “you die”. These verbs morph. And this is where a lot of people find difficulty in the casual form of Japanese. But, if you understand this basic element of “u” and “masu” everything really just builds off of it, and there are very concrete patterns of how the verbs morph. So don’t panic.