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Here is a test passage I came across that made me suspect that my perceptions of formality and politeness were wrong. In this passage, we are required to select the options we think are correct (bolded below). I am confused about the last question.

Why can the last blank be filled with 日本人にもかかわらず when おおやさん has been speaking casually all along?


おおや:キャロルちゃん、今日も元気だね。

キャロル:ありがとうございます。毎日楽しいですから。みんな小川さんやおおやさんの{a. せいです b. ためです c. おかげです}。

おおや:ハハハ、おせじも上手になったね。で、どうだった、日本語のスピーチは。

キャロル:う~ん、{a. けっこう b. なかなか c. かなり}まちがえたんですが、無事終わりました。ああ、私の日本語はまだまだなので、{a. もっと練習すべきだと思います。 b. もっと練習するべきだったと思います。 c. もっと練習しないといけないと思います。}

おおや:すごいねえ。私は{a. 日本人のくせに b. 日本人なのに c. 日本人にもかかわらず}漢字が書けなくなってきちゃったよ。としをとっちゃったのかなあ。

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    Well I think... all three options are good for the last question. – broccoli forest Oct 19 '17 at 19:40
  • もっと練習するべきだったと思います<ーどうしてこれは正解だと思いますか?私にはそんな使い方(べきだった)見たことないですけど… – Sweeper Oct 19 '17 at 20:36
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    a. もっと練習すべきだと思う for the third question is good too. @Sweeper it means "I think I should have practiced more". – user4092 Oct 20 '17 at 3:40
  • to those points, here is what we were taught. For the third blank, 私 cannot go with べき unless it is used as a reflection on something you should have done in the past (べきだった). For the last question, 私 cannot be used with くせに (this was also mentioned in A Dictionary of Intermediate Japanese Grammar p155) – rhyaeris Oct 20 '17 at 5:41
  • @rhyaeris Using べき with your own action certainly sounds lack of self involvement (hence not a typical expression), but it's of course not grammatical restriction. The issue around くせに is parallel, while this one is quite often used in a kind of ironic sense. – user4092 Oct 20 '17 at 8:53
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すごいねえ。私は{a. 日本人のくせに b. 日本人なのに c. 日本人にもかかわらず}漢字が書けなくなってきちゃったよ。としをとっちゃったのかなあ。

While 「日本人にもかかわらず」 may sound a little more formal than 「日本人なのに」, the former is not particularly formal in and of itself. It can and will appear in contexts that are slightly informal as this conversation.

「日本人なのに」 might well be considered the "best" answer by many, but it would be nitpicking to call 「日本人にもかかわらず」 an incorrect answer.

「日本人のくせに」, however, sounds fairly self-degrading, so that it might not be as fitting as the other two. If the landlord used it jokingly and purposely, however, it could not be called an incorrect phrase choice. On a test like this, though, I doubt that the examinee would be required to think of a rather specific situation like what I just mentioned regarding the speaker's mood or characteristics.

  • I see. So, just because a sentence is in the plain form, it does not mean formal language can't be used. – rhyaeris Oct 22 '17 at 7:05

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