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Exercise 2: Observing Requests in Japanese -2


This time, let’s focus in on your home life in Japan as an exchange student. Suppose that you are living with a host family in a residential area just outside of Tokyo.



The meals your host mother prepares for her family and for you are delicious. The problem is that she thinks that Americans eat a lot and gives you far too much food.  You heard that it is somewhat impolite not to finish what is on your plate in some Japanese homes, and so you make a real effort to finish everything.  Now she is offering you a second helping.  You want to ask her to give you a smaller portion, but you also don’t what to hurt her feelings.

1. Listen to a sample dialogue in this situation. Observe their language carefully. Write down a request statement that the first speaker makes.

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Situation 2

Your vacation starts in three weeks and your parents will be coming to Japan to visit you. You need to arrange to pick them up at the airport, which is a 3-hour drive from where you live. There is no easy public transportation from the airport and taxis are expensive. You know your host father does not like driving in the cities, but want to ask if he could drive you out to the airport to pick up your parents.

2. Listen to a sample dialogue in this situation. What request statement does the first speaker make?

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Most host families would probably be more willing to give you a ride than in this example. They may offer to help even before you make a request.

Listen to Another Sample Dialogue

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3. Let’s review the important factors in these situations that influence the speech:

Age difference between the two speakers: You are probably younger.
Role/status difference between the two:     You are of lower status (You are younger in age and being hosted).
Closeness or distance between the two:     Probably close
Magnitude of your request:                          Smaller in Sit. 1 (requesting less food), larger in Sit. 2 (asking for a ride to the airport.)

Now let’s pay attention to the politeness level of a request. Which level of politeness did you observe above?

・・・くれない/もらえない*? ・・・ kurenai/moraenai*?          No keigo (no honorifics)
・・・くれ/もらえませんか? ・・・ kure/morae masenka?   Desu/masu style honorifics
・・・くださいませんか?     ・・・kudasai masenka?          Respect style honorifics
・・・いただけませんか?    ・・・itadake masenka?          Humble style honorifics

* moraeru is slightly more polite than kureru.

Judging from the sample dialogues, what situational factor(s) might have the greatest impact on the language of requesting in Japanese? In what ways are the dialogues similar and/or different?


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