In English, we address people by their first names, such as “Hi Bob” or “Hello Suzan. If you want to show respect, you may add honorific titles like “Mr., Ms., Mrs.” or “Dr.”. However, in Japanese, there are different ways to address people.
People add “san” to the end of names, as in “Tanaka-san”. Generally, you add “san” to the family name, but it’s also possible to add it to your full name, like in “Tanaka Taro-san”. If you’re close to the person you’re addressing, you can also add “san” to their first name, as in “Taro-san”.
For Customers or Superiors
When addressing customers or superiors, you add “sama” at the end, as in “Kimura-sama”. Generally, you add “sama” to the family name, but sometimes it’s added to the full name, as in “Kimura Keiko-sama”. However, it’s not so common to add “sama” to a first name, as in “Keiko-sama”.
In historical dramas, they refer to a person of higher status as “dono”. However, it’s not used as an honorific title today.
For Younger People and Children
For boys, we address them with “kun”, while we adress girls with “chan” after their names. We can also address boys as “chan”, but we don’t use “kun” for girls. You can add “kun” after the family name, but we add “chan” to the first name, not the family name. We also use “kun” and “chan” to call cute pets.
To address doctors, lawyers, politicians, and educators, we add “sensei” after their names, as it’s an expression of respect. When using “sensei”, we added it to a person’s last name or full name, but not when calling their first name only. It’s considered impolite to address someone without their family name. Therefore, we consider addressing someone with “sensei” while only using their first name rude.
A Slightly Different Way
Sometimes, we use the word “tan”. We use this when calling something cute, like a “Moe character”. Usually, we use “tan” when referring to a character from a movie or anime. For example, “XXX-tan from that movie was so cute”.
In other cases, we may add “chi”, which is written as “〜〜tchi”. It’s a more familiar way to address someone, rather than “chan”. “chi” has a similar pronunciation as “〜〜nchi”, but it doesn’t have the same meaning. For example, “Sato-nchi” means Sato’s house, referring to the Sato family.
We use the word “senpai” to call someone who’s been working for longer than you or a senior student in a club, for example. You can use the word, “senpai” on its own, as well as with the family name.
This is how the Japanese call people using honorific titles. In addition to these, there are other ways to address people, such as “don”, but these are just the more common honorific titles.
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