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I played a game app, and I found this sentence on the TOS agreement screen.

ないようがわからないかたは、おうちの人にがめんをみせてください

English: If you don't understand, show this screen to your parents.

The sentence is written in Hiragana, so it seems to be for children.

  • ないようがわからないかた: children who play the app
  • おうちの人: their parents

I know かた is politer than , but if the only difference is whether it's polite or not, why is the sentence not polite to the parents?

If the sentence was not wrong, it would be interchangeable with this:

ないようがわからない人は、おうちのかたにがめんをみせてください

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  • 日本語を母国語とされる方との印象がありましたが、勘違いでしょうか。それによって回答のしかたを変えざるを得ないような気がしますのでお尋ねします。 – l'électeur Jan 27 '16 at 9:54
  • @l'électeur はい、母国語についての疑問です。こういう、子供に語り掛けるような文章での「方」「人」の使い分けがよくわからないなと思いまして。。 – unarist Jan 27 '16 at 10:17
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「ないようがわからないかたは、おうちのにがめんをみせてください。」

This sentence, while 100% grammatical, sounds kind of awkward, and I am sure that, as a fellow Japanese-speaker, you probably felt the same way.

Even though it is a little awkward, it probably could not be improved much because it has been written to express something that the Japanese language is not designed well to express.

It is awkward because it is written by the vendors (adults) to the customers (children) and in what is essentially supposed to be an honorific language. Imagine having to write instructions using keigo to someone who cannot even read kanji!

(I sometimes hear the same kind of awkwardness/unnaturalness in restaurants, shops, etc. in Japan where the adult employees must sometimes speak to kids. I would not do any better than they do, either, if I worked at one of those places.)

This instruction uses 「かた」 to refer to the child customer, and I would say that it is a reasonable word choice. The manufacturers, however, used 「人」 to refer to the kid's parents when the parents themselves are likely to be the ones who actually payed for the product. My guess is that the instruction-writer tried to see things from the kid's viewpoint and ended up using 「おうちの人」 as that might sound "better" or "more natural or familiar" to the kid him/herself.

(Kids are generally pretty poor in their keigo usage. The manufacturers know that, but they could not completely ignore keigo since the kids are their customers and customers are gods in Japan. This dilemma, according to me, helped create the awkwardness of the instructions.)

In conclusion, I find it difficult to improve the sentence. One could use 「かた」 twice, but my bigger concern would be the fact that even if one used 「かた」 twice, it would not improve the awkward and unnatural verb phrases that should go with the polite and respectful 「かた」. I am referring to 「わからない」 and 「みせてください」, both of which are "plain" and would not be used in product instructions for adults, but using 「おわかりにならない」 and 「おみせになっていただくようおねがいいたします」 instead would be out of the question with kids.

To say:

「ないようがわからないは、おうちのかたにがめんをみせてください。」

would be risky because one could end up sounding so 「上から」 by addressing your customer with 「人」 even if s/he is a kid. It would sound like an instruction on a cheap candy. Just to play safe, I would pesonally not use the sentence in highlight above as an instruction in a game. If you used it, however, not many people would feel it strange, either.

Adult Japanese-speakers would know instinctively that this is not a good situation to use keigo properly or even nicely for that matter.

 

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  • What do you think about using "人" twice? It would be better if kids don't understand "かた", and there seems to be no need to use "かた" only for parents. – unarist Jan 27 '16 at 12:56
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    I thought about it myself, but for the life of me, I seem mentally incapable of accepting the idea of referring to the customer of any age as 人. It seems kind of OK in speaking if the customer is a kid, but in writing, I find it lacking in politeness. (Because in writing, you never know how old the "kid" is that is reading your instruction. In speaking, you do if the kid is really small or not.) Don't quote me on this, though. – l'électeur Jan 27 '16 at 14:37
  • If the message is clearly and only for the children then why not directly 〜お子様、お家の方〜? I guess that would be the form used in a department store. – macraf Jan 29 '16 at 10:47
  • @macraf I think "お子様" says "your chlidren" politely. So that form seems to be for parents, not for children. – unarist Jan 29 '16 at 16:17

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