Saturday, June 19, 2010

Honorifics: do we have the right to use them?

I don’t usually reply to hatemail or absurd comments but I thought this one brought an interesting subject up…

Are white people allowed to use Korean or Japanese honorific words? The question should be… why white people shouldn’t be allowed to do so?

Honestly… I never really thought about it so I asked some of my Japanese and Korean friends: most of them assured me that a white person saying “Oppa” or “-chan” is fine, especially when addressing a Korean or Japanese person. For most of them, they consider it being thoughtful to their culture and language and appreciated it.

Kinda the same way a French person from Québec will appreciate it when a person who doesn’t speak French at all will greet you in French and try to talk in French as much as possible. Even if it’s broken, there is effort and the person is being thoughtful about my culture: I definitely appreciate it.

So why would it be wrong the other way around, right?

I know that it can be annoying in a way… I’ve met over enthusiastic Japanophiles before. I don’t mean to generalize but a lot of them would use kawaii or arigatou as much as possible to a point where it was too much. But if you balance it out, like using those words when you are hanging out with a Japanese person and you truly are studying Japanese (listening to Japanese music doesn’t count as studying btw~) then it’s absolutely ok!

I know a lot of my readers are somewhat interested in Asian cultures and some are Asian. Please let me know what you think =)

[ In case you are wondering, B Oppa and J Oppa are both in Korea, this is why I haven’t talked about them in a while~ They’ll be back at the end of the summer!]

edit; I just want to say that I'm not angry or anything! That comment doesn't affect me in any way but the second part of it (about disrecpecting the korean culture) made me reflect. That's it. No bad feelings here~ lol


  1. This is your blog and you can say what you wanna say :) Just like how that person does not need to be on your blog.

  2. Oh no I,m not targetting the person at all, I just thought it brought an interesting question.

  3. i know lol. what i meant is that you shouldn't change yourself because some people may not like how you are or how you talk and etc. because it is your blog and there's no one else you gotta be on your blog but yourself. besides i agree that it's considerate to the culture and not disrespectful at all.

  4. Oh thank you for clarifying! Now I understand what you meant :)

    I totally agree with you: it's amazing how some people have a hard time to accept that a blog belongs to the person who writes it~ 

  5. Urgh. I just don't this whole thing.

    I do use Japanese honorifics because it's what's expected in Japan. Not because of your skin color, becuase it's what's Japanese.

    Somethings are just blown so out of proportion *DONT_KNOW*

  6. Pretending you know everything about a culture or society that is not your native one, while you don't have the background (like having lived there for long years, studied and researched about there etc), is truly irritating. An example would be guys who fantasize about japanese girls while saying overly generalized things about them (like "I like japanese girls cuz they're so sweet" ). It just makes me want to choke them.
    Also people who only see the fanciness of that country, praising it, when reality is bitter. If we love a country (be it yours or outside), you have to admit no country is perfect and accept the dirty things. Naive people praising Japan as heaven should go there and see reality of Japan as it is. It's nothing glittery as they say.

    But someone who likes another culture and just takes bits and pieces of it for fun and as a way to show appreciation, I find it ridiculously cute. The use of "chan", "san", "desu", "hai", "arigato-" etc makes me want to hug the person Kiss . Unless it's a white creepy guy lol

    What's funny is that we often blame white people for doing these kinds of cultural appropriation while asian people do it SO MUCH more. Their languages are filled with english/french words and no one bitched about it. They say "thank you" (or "San kyu" ) or "hello" to white people all the time.

  7. Sorry the "Kiss" is a mistake lol

  8. Wow Akane! I love your input on this!! I agree 100% with you! If only everyone could think a little bit more like this!!

  9. Bon, je crois que la personne qui ta écrit ce hate mail ne sais pas ces quoi la différence entre quelqu’un qui apprend le Korean et un wapanese!
    Je ne crois vraiment pas que tu es wapanese ou weeboo,
    Car tu agis vraiment pas comme une asian-freak!
    Car les asian-freak me font peur et toi non! HAHA
    Ayaaa, je me sens moins seule
    Je reçois souvent ce genre de hate-mail!
    Mais on me traite de wasian!

    *reprend sont sérieux*

    Si nous sommes wapanese seulement a cause on apprends des langue asiatique,
    Alors les gyaru (jap), les ullzang (Kr), sont-il des wanabe white?
    Es-ce que les gens qui sont wannabe gangster sont des wannabe “black”
    En tous cas!
    Je ne pense pas d’etre interesser dans une autre culture fais cette de cette personne une wannabe!
    et je crois encore moin qui personne est wapanese si elle montre du respect a un autre personne!
    Mais si la personne commence a mentir sur ces origine et commence a etre obséder sur le japon ou autre, la il est wapanese ou autre!

  10. the fashionate travellerJune 20, 2010 at 6:23 PM

    I agree with what others have said here. Although westernised Japanese I know don't expect honorifics from their western friends. The thing that irked me most about the comment was that they couldn't even spell disrespect! oh, and the term weaboo.

  11. I echo everything said here, it really depends on the context and the situation ^_^

  12. I read some comments, and as usual I find Akane-senpai's comment absolutely relevant and correct on this issue. There isn't much to add to this...

    but here's a Korean (who grew up here but still)'s perspective:
    I really see nothing wrong with a white person using Unni or Oppa... If anything, it's pretty cute and honestly, even when we speak in English, we use those words... so if someone like you (whom we clearly know like our culture and is learning about it) wanna use them to, it's fine and it probably would make most of us comfortable around you.

    There are some (I wouldn't be able to say whether it's a majority, but I am hoping it's a minority) Koreans who are just very edgy and nationalist and whatever.. but they're usually the ones who do it when it's convenient to them.. Meaning, they claim Korena pride and reject Foreigners who try to learn about Korea but then they start using random words of English and listen to English music and expect foreigners to accept them.. I call that sheer hypocrisy... but that's a different story.

    The point of all this was. Don't stop using those words. Most people would appreciate it, and it's not up to one hater to determine how you behave. People who know you like you and the things you do, and it's all that really matters, right?