I think the way of using the word “you” is one of the most different points.
When we speak English, we use “you” all the time.
Do you like chocolate?
Have you met Ichiro?
In my English-Japanese dictionary, there are “あなた(anata)” “君(kimi)” “お前(omae)” for the word “you”.
But actually we almost never use these words especially in formal situation.
あなた(anata) is one of the most popular words for “you”.
But I almost never use or hear “anata” in general conversation.
If I use “anata” for my friends, boyfriend or family, it sounds unfriendly.
Also if I use it for my boss, it’s unbelievably rude.
Instead of “anata”, we usually use the person’s name.
(Yuuko san wa chokore-to ga sukidesuka.)
(Yuuko san wa Ichiro ni attakotoga arimasuka.)
But, if we don’t know the person’s name what should we do?
When you talk with a customer in a department store, ask a taxi driver a question, run into your friend’s homeroom teacher…
We just try to avoid using “you”.
It means that we drop “anata” from the sentence.
(chokore-to ga sukidesuka.)
イチローに会ったことがありますか。 (Ichiro ni attakotoga arimasuka.)
But sometimes we can’t avoid using “anata” anyway.
In that case, we use the person’s position, occupation instead of the name.
お客様(okyakusama) for your customer, 運転手さん(untenshu san) for the taxi driver, and 先生(sensee) for your friend’s teacher.
(okyakusama wa chokore-to ga sukidesuka.)
(untenshu san wa Ichiro ni attakotoga arimasuka.)
I like being called my name or calling my friends’ name instead of saying “anata”.
But, you know, it’s sometimes difficult to remember someone’s name especially when we meet someone accidentally.
I hope using “anata” becomes more common and natural in Japanese like English.
Do you know any other language which has the same situation as Japanese?
Written by Akiko