-kun vs. -chan

donjoe

Member
Romanian
OK, so according to the thread about <Name>-kun, this postfix is used to refer to people of both sexes when the speaker is superior to them in age or status.

What about <Name>-chan? Is that one also used for both sexes? Is it also (sometimes) based on age/status or is it just an indication of familiarity/closeness?

Arigato.
 
  • akimura

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    I don't know how Japanese textbooks for Japanese learners explain -kun and -chan in general.

    In reality, both postfixes are used for both sexes. It doesn't mean they are used equally for both sexes. The -kun is primarily for men, so it is more frequently used for men.

    The -chan is used for both sexes. It deviated from -san to call someone with familiarity/closeness/cuteness. In general, babies, children, particularly girls are more likely to be called with -chan. But rather than memorizing each specific case, I would think it is a better idea to ask yourself who would tend to be adorable to you first, and then observe each specific case. This question might help you understand for whom -chan is more likely to be used. The age factor, - yes, in general, a person at a lower age who generally show respect for you, look adorable, and such a person is more likely to be called with -chan, etc.

    I have a suggestion: rather than memorizing as many specific cases as possible, why don't you start with -san for adults over 20 and younger adults in their late teens? And when you need to call a child of the adults, use -kun for boys and -chan for girls. It is also safe to call someone older or higher in position with -san. I believe that's a good starting point.

    At the same time, you might want to carefully observe variations that native Japanese speakers use. Depending on which sort of environment or community you might be in (university, office, etc.), you might or might not find a need to adjust the usage very soon. When you get comfortable with variations, then you might as well start use such variations yourself. After all, that's how many native Japanese speakers adjust the usage of -san and -chan too after joining a new group.

    If you would like to get a better feel of it before your visit to Japan, one good way to do so would be to watch as many Japanese movies and TV dramas as possible, probably available in DVD format?
     
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    donjoe

    Member
    Romanian
    Whoa, thanks for all the details!
    I'm not conversational in Japanese and I have no plans to go to Japan anytime soon. I just wanted a better understanding of Japanese cinematic productions. In the one I'm watching right now the English subtitles don't translate "-kun" and "-chan" in any way, they just reproduce them.
     

    Flaminius

    coclea mod
    日本語 / japāniski / יפנית
    OK, so according to the thread about <Name>-kun, this postfix is used to refer to people of both sexes when the speaker is superior to them in age or status.

    What about <Name>-chan? Is that one also used for both sexes? Is it also (sometimes) based on age/status or is it just an indication of familiarity/closeness?

    Arigato.
    Assuming that we are talking about use of -chan by adults in the business world, I'd specify that it is a family name that gets the address suffix. As akimura has mentioned, both suffixes (<familyName>-kun and <familyName>-chan) indicate that the addressee is subordinate to the addressor.

    Whether to use -kun or -chan largely depends on the familiarity between the two (-chan indicates a closer relationship) and on the age of the addressor (older addressors may feel it disgraceful to use -chan thinking it is a bit too familiar). Perhaps there are other factors as well, such as the fashion of the industry: e.g., television industry is often depicted (by the selfsame...) as a hotbed of <familyName>-kun.

    Moderator Note:
    A more general discussion about address postfixes/suffixes is now a separate thread.
     
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