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There Are Four Types of Japanese

  1. The kind that people actually speak
  2. The kind that people think they speak
  3. The kind that people think should be spoken
  4. The kind that people think it would be cute or funny for you to speak

School and well-meaning, 真面目 people with an overactive sense of duty will teach you Type 3.

Your normal, sane friends will teach you Type 4 for a laugh at your expense 😛 .

When you ask questions, people will answer with Type 2.

Type 1 is the only real kind. It’s the only kind you need to know. But even if you ask for it nicely, people won’t give it to you. Because either they don’t know where it is (unconscious competence), or they don’t think it’s right for anyone, from any country, to use it. So you take it. You take Type 1 Japanese. You steal it by observation and imitation.


  20 comments for “There Are Four Types of Japanese

  1. 魔法少女☆かなたん
    August 29, 2011 at 04:34

    Type 2 is exactly the reason I gave up on Lang-8 pretty quickly. When I was correcting people’s English, it was always the English I thought I was speaking, but it still sounded kind of weird when I thought about it. I saw another English speaker say to never begin a sentence with “but”. But I realised I do that too!
    You gotta learn to break the rules, but break the rules the right way. You can’t and won’t find a complete guide to that anywhere. It’s something you can only get from experiencing the real thing, and using that to try to be the real thing.

    • ダンちゃん
      August 29, 2011 at 18:54

      I have to disagree here, in that on lang-8 the idea is that you are practicing composition, not speaking. If you start a sentence with ‘but’ in English, you are writing incorrectly. If you handed in an essay at school with but at the beginning of a sentence, you would/should lose marks. It’s important that we make this distinction clear. Writing and speaking are very different types of activity. With speaking we have an active audience, we can watch their expressions as we speak and see that they understand us. There is tone, context, body language, etc. With writing there is none of this, which is one reason why you need to take a different attitude and write clearly so that you cannot be misunderstood.

      • 魔法少女☆かなたん
        August 30, 2011 at 07:47

        Just to clarify, I didn’t intend for this to sound like I’m anti-Lang-8, as you CAN get pointers on grammar and the correct vocabulary from using it.
        The real issue is that you’ll get the kind of language people think they speak and write. You’re not “supposed” to end a question with だ or use 全然 before non-negative words, but you’ll find some people doing these things in informal speech and writing. Sometimes it’s okay.
        Also, if you’re looking to improve your writing to fit with grammar rules, I think a book on the subject or even a good Google search ( can take you further than random native speakers.

      • ダンちゃん
        August 30, 2011 at 22:04

        Haha. Four people disliked what I had to say.

        • Drewskie
          August 31, 2011 at 09:31

          Ahaha, Dan, you clearly haven’t participated in a voting-based posting system before. Otherwise you’d know that mentioning how many downvotes you have is the fastest way to be downvoted. 🙂 

    • Carl
      September 19, 2011 at 01:27

      What stopped me using Lang-8 wasn’t people correcting with picky English.  It was when I saw people correcting with utterly nonsense English.
      That could easily happen with your Japanese.  There are five types of Japanese.  Number five: the kind written by people who can’t string a sentence together in writing.

  2. August 29, 2011 at 10:31

    That difference in the way people actually speak and the way they THINK they speak/ought to speak is pretty much what modern research in linguistics is all about. It’s a fascinating field.

  3. August 29, 2011 at 10:34

    Don’t be so quick to diss lang8. It’s a decent website when you’re a beginner.
    Anyway, as soon as you start analyzing how you speak, you’re toast

  4. Eri
    August 29, 2011 at 12:42

    I don’t quite agree. There are people who will tell you like it is. I try to as much I can on places like Lang-8. Plus Lang-8 is for teaching you how to write, not speak. Thus being told how it should be is probably better anyway. Learn speaking from listening, not reading.

  5. ライトニング
    August 29, 2011 at 13:39

    I still am recovering from analyzing how i speak. Luckily it is only on 1 subject, は vs が
    I just stumbled upon something that said は emphasizes what comes after and が is before it. Since then i always though about it instead of just being natural and using what feels right. Luckily I don’t do it that much anymore, but yeah. It’s not good.

  6. August 29, 2011 at 19:48

    You can thumb my comments down, but Lang8 is extremely useful and you can also get feedback on your spoken Japanese if you record an audio file.

  7. August 30, 2011 at 04:34

    I have to agree with Miss Language Learning, I think Lang8 is very useful. It’s true that there is a difference between speaking and writing, but at least you can explain yourself 🙂

    • September 9, 2011 at 08:53

      Yup, and any practice is good practice, especially when you get valuable feedback from native speakers FOR FREE 😀

  8. Ken
    August 31, 2011 at 01:03

    Yea, imitation works very well. There have been many moments in my life when I have found mistakes in my speaking and writing by listening to native speakers.

  9. Daniel
    September 3, 2011 at 16:06

    I thought I read “intimidation” not “imitation.” That was a good laugh for a few seconds.

  10. September 9, 2011 at 04:00

    Everyone always tells me to also say what I want to say in English because they don’t understand my Japanese.
    These are the same people that will lecture for an hour in English about 「それ」
    I’d rather sound like a child, because quite frankly, in Japanese I am a child. You’ll never sound like a grown-up if you don’t spit out words sooner or later. So if you have the audacity to correct my Japanese, at least correct it IN JAPANESE rather than feed an hour of English words ABOUT Japanese.

    • September 9, 2011 at 08:54

      Yeah, some people are dumb like that. They treat students of foreign languages like idiots. There’s nothing you can do—just ignore them and move on. Find someone else 🙂

      • Nagoya Blue
        November 2, 2011 at 13:05

        Yeah, and most of them seem to be teaching at Eikaiwa in Japan…..;)

    • November 2, 2011 at 02:48

      Yeah I get the ‘write in English’ thing when I post baffling, confusing or wrong Japanese.   Sometimes I do this, but I wouldn’t go crazy with it. 

  11. December 15, 2011 at 17:48

    I think Im the second type hahaha

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