Conversational Japanese

By ken cannon - 11:58 AM

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.
The Difference
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
Casual formal:
Formal form:
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”
Casual form:
Formal form:
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.

Ken Cannon

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  1. that lesson really helps in distinguishing casual and formal

    thnx :)

  2. how long would it take to be somewhat fluent in both

  3. its not really hard, whats really a problem to most *me included* is the many "morphings" of a verb that need to be memorized.

  4. how do you write characters of japanese on the computer how do the japanese write it is there a computer key board w/ the letters on there

  5. how would one go about constructing question sentences?

    1. I remember during an online lesson that all you have to do to make a stamens a question is to add "ka" at the end of a sentence. Wether it's by itself or attached to the last word, I can't remember :(

  6. this lesson sure does help!!!

  7. What about Godan verbs vs Ichidan verbs? Is there any difference between both of their casual and formal forms? Also how can I tell the difference between a Godan verb, and a Ichidan verb? Sorry, this question might be a bit random, but it's been bugging me for a while.

  8. is it best to learn formal, then start on casual or to just start strait away with casual

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. it's also good to learn both at the same time, maybe. As for me, I buy Japanese books, and I read it when I've got nothing to do. I somehow familiarize some of the phrases, and when I watch anime, I sometimes hear those phrases but in less formal manner. So that's the time I learn about it's formal form (from the book)and the casual form (from anime).
    Or sometimes, the opposite happens. I hear some phrases from anime first, then in a Japanese book. In that way, it can also help learning Japanese.

    and by the way, the "shinu", i can't forget Sasori said that.
    and "korosu", kakashi :D

  11. Thanks so much, can you please do a youtube video on how to use the roots of verbs to change if they're formal or casual

  12. Thank you so much! but can u make a video about it and if you were to learn to speak,wright, and read japense how long would it take?


  13. @Anonymous, Sure! In fact I actually touch on that topic a bit in this post

  14. Ken, do u have the urge to kill that bad??? Cuz if u do, I totally feel u....