In the context of restaurants, convenience stores and similar situations, is it ok for a customer to ask for something that was said in keigo (or in manual keigo) to be repeated in more "normal" Japanese? Or would staff rather speak in English rather than non-keigo Japanese?

Assume the customer is not asking because they want to be more intimate, but because the customer (an obviously non-native speaker) hasn't learnt Japanese in its entirety yet.

  • Since you are a foreigner in this situation, I don't think there is a right or wrong. It is a situation not in the "rule book". You could ask for them to speak more simply and this would usually result in something more understandable for the beginner. Someone once told me, "If you have trouble understanding someone, it is likely that Japanese people have the same problem too." People with good communication skills can always get the message across. Jan 29, 2012 at 8:10

2 Answers 2


Sure, that's fine. You could say 敬語{けいご}は難{むずか}しいので、タメ語{ご}でしゃべっていただけますか? Although it's a bit funny when a beginner uses the word タメ語 because it's a bit slangy. But I can't think of a better way of saying it.

簡単{かんたん}な日本語{にほんご}でおねがいします should work well too (and has no slangs).

  • 3
    You can replace タメ語で by 敬語を使わずに. (They are not exactly the same in every situation, but they mean the same thing in this situation.) But I prefer 簡単な日本語でお願いします. Oct 16, 2011 at 11:17
  • 1
    -1 for タメ語. タメ語 refers to a junior person (in terms of age or experience) talking to a senior person without the use of honorific forms. There are various reasons you have to use honorific forms, and the situation with a shop clerk and a customer does not fit the situation for タメ語. But 簡単な日本語... is okay.
    – user458
    Oct 16, 2011 at 22:28
  • @sawa: タメ means "equal" which is why you say "タメだね" when you find out ppl have same age as you. It's not reserved for juniors talking to seniors in non 敬語. It just means speech used by タメs. Oct 16, 2011 at 22:49
  • 3
    Enno and @sawa, I thought the discussion you're having merited a separate question, so I put it here: japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/3484/…
    – Questioner
    Oct 17, 2011 at 3:05
  • 1
    +1 for saying that it's fine to ask for more normal Japanese, but I'd like to know what the suggested phrases mean before using them! Oct 17, 2011 at 22:00

I think it is OK. I used to do it a lot, but the staff may have trouble not using keigo. It works well at a CD shop, not that well at the bank…

Also, it's quite impossible to be satisfied over the phone. Indeed, in a shop, the boss will see you're a foreigner having trouble, and maybe let his staff use less formal wordings. However, in a call center, the boss will only see/hear his staff speak badly on the phone, and scold her (hurrah for jobs for women!) harshly later I think…

  • 1
    The only thing I can think of for phone calls is ask her to speak more slowly first, and then ask her to speak in non-keigo. Oct 17, 2011 at 21:43

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .