Keigo and Tameguchi

Japan is a country with a unique beautiful culture. If you have been to Japan, you will notice that it is one of the rare countries where everywhere you go, people are very kind and respectful. It is an important culture within Japan to talk and act respectfully to the other people, especially to the elders.

Keigo – the polite form

Keigo is a form of Japanese language known as the Polite form. This is often used when you meet someone for the first time or when you talk to the elders (a child speaking to an adult for example).

If you go to shops – convenience stores, supermarkets or especially luxury department stores – they will always speak in keigo form. This is to follow the traditional thinking that “every customer is a god”.

Tameguchi – the casual form

Tameguchi ため口 is a form of Japanese language which is casual and impolite. The words tend to be shorter compared to Keigo.

It is used in the conversation between family members, relative and friends. The elders will use this form when they’re talking to younger. If you see, for example, a taxi driver talking in tameguchi, it is because he/she thinks they are older than you.

Keigo & Tameguchi – Examples

Every sentence in Japanese can be written in Keigo and Tameguchi form so it is impossible to list all. Here are few examples:

Can I have this
Korewo Kudasai – これを下さい (Keigo)
Korewo Chodai – これをちょうだい (Tameguchi)

How can I get to Tokyo?
Tokyo e wa do-yatte ikemasuka? – 東京へはどうやって行けますか? (Keigo)
Tokyo e wa do-yatte ikuno? – 東京へはどうやっていくの? (Tameguchi)

Do I need to know which one to use?

When travelling in Japan, Keigo is probably the best form of Japanese language to use everywhere. If you are an adult and you talk to Japanese kids in keigo, they may feel strange but they will understand.

It is best to be polite than impolite.