IWTYAL 161: Should I Use Formal or Informal Language?

Chris asks: “Should I speak formally or informally in Turkish?”

In this episode:

  • Every language has it’s convention as to when and where you should speak formally or informally
  • I’ve found myself resisting speaking formally in other languages, and I’ve always been curious why that is
  • What I’ve learnt is that my “default” is informal, because that’s the way we speak English
  • Once you understand the cultural significance of formal and informal speech in the language you’re learning, it will make your decision much easier

Japanese:

  • Ultra polite: omeshi-agari ni narimasen ka
  • Polite: meshi-agarimasen ka OR taberaremasen ka
  • Normal: tabemasu ka
  • Informal: taberu?

Spanish:

  • Tú is standard in most places for speaking to someone your age or below
  • But in Colombia, Usted is used within the family, as a cultural mark of respect and affection

French:

  • “Je peux vous tutoyer?”

The problem in your case may be that you’re not using Turkish enough to develop a gut feel for what is appropriate…

  • Once you’re using the language regularly, you’ll get it!
  • Remember that speaking politely, but with a warm smile, can be extremely endearing and doesn’t have to be stiff
  • Watch TV and movies and pay attention just to that
  • A good rule of thumb is to use the polite form
  • But it never really matters… you get a free pass as a foreigner!

Quote Of The Day:

Be polite; write diplomatically; even in a declaration of war one observes the rules of politeness.

-Otto von Bismarck

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This article was written by Olly Richards.

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