皆様, こんにちにゃあぁ！Welcome to Kiki+Koko: Let’s NihonGO!! Online, written before a live studio audience. We’re your guides to Japanese language and culture, your hosts, Kiki and Koko! This is the flip-side on which we said you would proverbially catch us. We’ve turned the cassette tape to 【ＳＩＤＥ Ｂ】to continue our lesson to first-person pronouns. Or, perhaps, you missed 【ＳＩＤＥ Ａ】, in which case, feel free to flip it back over by clicking the thumbnail to the previous lesson~! (It covers a LOT of information that will be very important to you in this lesson, or in just understanding the nuances of the concept.) But, no worries, we’ll be right here waiting for you to return. And, for those of you who are ready and eager to get back into this, continue on~! We’re going to cover even more basic personal pronouns. For languages like English, one may be used to having only one to three way to refer to oneself: Me, myself, and I, but as we covered on【ＳＩＤＥ Ａ】, there are a plethora of ways to refer to oneself in Japanese! It’s like a wardrobe full of different people and personalities rolled into the way one refers to themselves. This should also equip you to understand when someone else it referring to themselves personally.
Keep in mind, though, as you learn these special ways to refer to yourself, a majority of these are informal and should only be used in informal situations. When it comes time for business, or speaking with those of a higher status, you’ll have to equip 「私」in one of its forms, just not 「あたし」, as it can be spelt the same way with kanji, but is considered informal. But, it shouldn’t be a huge worry, as many times, pronouns are omitted, which you can take a closer look at by clicking the 「What is this magical です?」thumbnail. (And, afterwards, taking a quick look at 「What is a Copula?」will assist you in understanding why omissions feel more natural in context. Hint: Contrary to popular belief, it’s not the director. Word play is fun, though.
Before we do get to the other pronouns, there is something that changes from language to language that one might not even think about, and that’s body language. If you’re referring to yourself non-verbally, this differs from country to country. In English speaking countries, we’ve observed people point to their chest with their index finger or thumb when referring to themselves, or putting a hand on their own chest, but this is very different to referring to yourself in Japanese body-language. If you point to your chest, who knows, they might think you’re referring to your heart and take you into hospital. And, you wouldn’t want that. They wouldn’t even give you a lolly, anyway, just a bill. So, avoid lolly-less billing, and learn the proper way of referring to yourself.
Body Language Culture Note
In Japanese body language, to refer to yourself non-verbally, you point to your nose with your index finger. How, though? Pretend you’re booping your own nose, like you’re pressing a button, the button that makes people understand you’re referring to yourself. Though, ehem…. remember to keep your fingies outside of your nose. That might not leave the best impression otherwise. Just as in English body language, you don’t necessarily have to touch your nose, you just have to point towards it. So, you can give your nose a boop, or you can just point your index finger to it.
Simple Survival Sentence Study
What good is referring to yourself if you can’t use it within a simple sentence? We’re here for you with some quick lessons that will get you started with the tools you need in your Japanese language survival kit to create some basic sentences. And, if you’ve already given these a read, there’s no harm in studying / revising to keep it fresh in your mind! You wouldn’t want your Japanese language tools to become as fresh as petrol station sushi, would you? We don’t know if that even exists… But, that’s the metaphor: something that may or may not exist in your memory that isn’t very fresh. Keep it fresh! You’ll use です、は、and が so often especially when making your first basic sentences, then you’ll be able to move onto を, に and へ, and で ! Now, you can make each sentence your own with your very own unique personal pronoun!!
You can open these on another tab or another device for reference. Now, onto the vocabulary!!
Basic First-Person Pronouns| 基本的な一人称代名詞
As a quick important reiteration: each of these can be translated as ‘I’ or ‘me.’
家 / 内 【うち】uchi
Full disclosure: this is an informal personal pronoun, so you want to make sure to only use this with friends or in very informal situations. It’s not exactly the 「俺」of non-gendered personal pronouns, but that might be the closest feminine equivalent in SOME cases; however, this has a splash of special local herbs and spices that adds a bit of background to it.
So, technically, this is used in mostly feminine informal speech, but it can be used by anyone without sounding overtly feminine or masculine. This started in the Kansai dialect. This used to be, and still is, closely associated, but it’s become much more mainstream due to popular culture and media.
This is a special pronoun, though, because 「うち」 can be used as a group pronoun, or 「we」. The kanji,「家」, refers to one’s own house, or just a house in general, but it can also refer to a household. The comparable kanji mostly associated with the pronoun, 「内」means within, between, amongst… All in all, it can refer to talking about a collective like your company or your family. Though, it also proliferated through 「ギャル」, gyaru, speech, which could take an entire article, but we’ll just extremely broadly and vaguely refer to as valley girl speech, but by this time, it’s simply become common place.
It’s very easily used by school girls as well as in adult feminine speech. So, if you want something with a bit of Kansai flair that’s easy to say, then this may be the one for you.
This one is piping hot out of the oven, ready to be served at formal and informal occasions. That’s right! This one is very special and can be used by anyone without a thought. It simply means 「oneself」, but when used as a first-person pronoun, it becomes, 「myself」, but translates as 「I」.
This isn’t one of the original or traditional pronouns, but as it’s simply a regular noun, it’s not formal or informal. Also, this doesn’t hold any feminine or masculine context, but this is often used in masculine speech.
This works as a formal and informal personal pronoun because it doesn’t feel overly familiar. That being said, you can think of it as a bit more distant. Think of saying, 「One may fancy a bit of daifuku…」or maybe more clearly, 「I, myself, enjoy daifuku.」It feels as though there’s one step between you and the speaker, that your mind has to make one extra leap. This indirectness makes it feel a bit more polite, but again, a little more distant. But, if you’re looking for an extremely versatile noun as your personal pronoun, and you don’t want anything with spice, this is a good choice.
So! This one, you most likely won’t hear very often, but it’s a fun choice. So, remember, 「私」? They’re back, but fancier, yet somehow more casual.
So, this is the informal version of the formal personal pronoun, yet is still informal in comparison to the basic 「私」, and even still, it gives a fancy feeling. This is a generally feminine pronoun. We think it has a feeling of high society, but still casual. So, you can have your cake and be frilly, too.
If you’re looking for something like Marmite on a crumpet, whilst wearing a tee shirt tuxedo, this is the pronoun for you. Not too fancy to use informally, but not so formal that you could wear it at a meeting with the Emperor.
Honestly, this may not be the pronoun you choose for yourself, but it’s good to know, as you’ll encounter it! In a lot of popular media, you’ll see people of advanced age using this pronoun, it’s how you know they’re old, we guess? And elderly people are neat, so we want to make sure you know that.
Or, we guess, if you want to sound like a wise elderly person, it might sound interesting as a pronoun to use. It’s neither formal nor informal, so it can be used any time.
[Your Name Here]【〇〇】
You’ve probably already known this pronoun most of your life! Your name! Yep, that’s one way to refer to yourself in Japanese. Not simply the English way, but literally speaking in third person.
George Costanza: ジョージは怒ってるぞ！(George is getting upset!!)
This oddly doesn’t give the same tone as it does in English. In Japanese, speaking in third person is considered sort of like cute talk or baby talk. This is used in kid’s or young feminine speech. It gives a cutesy feeling.
Kiki: 嬉嬉に 任せてね～☆ (Leave it to Kiki~)
But, there’s also the same cutesy feeling that’s acceptable when talking with family. One might hear their relative refer to their relationship to you in the third person, such as:
Gran: ばあちゃんは、会えなくて寂しいわ。(Granny misses you)
We think this is often used when you want to elicit feelings of endearment. So, if you want to have a cutesy tone to your speech, just say your name!
( On the other hand, we want to mention: If you’re using someone else’s name as the second person ‘pronoun,’ that’s simply common place. )
Wowee wow-wow, guys, we did it! Even though that makes quite a few pronouns, there are actually even more, but they’re less common, so we reckoned we wouldn’t bog you down with too much. But, did you figure out which pronoun you want to use? If you didn’t, then no worries! Sticking with 「私」 is common enough, but if you do want to spice up your language, understand other’s speech, or even put on a sort of character for conversations, these are essential tools to your Japanese language survival!
You can choose any of these to paint a fun picture of who you’re trying to portray in your Japanese speech. But, something else important in portraying yourself in Japanese would be learning to read and write! Many of the hiragana characters you’ve seen this, we’ve already covered in previous lessons! Be sure to take a look at our Reading and Writing sections to revise / review / study, if you’ve already stayed up-to-date, or take your time and go through them at your own pace.
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