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Lesson Transcript

Hi everybody! Hiroko here. Welcome to Absolute Beginner Questions Answered by Hiroko, where I’ll answer some of *your* most common Japanese questions.
The question for this lesson is… How should I refer to family members?
There are two different ways of referring to Japanese family members. One is when mentioning someone else’s family members, and the other is when you’re talking about your own family members to other people.
You need to pay respect to other people when you’re mentioning someone's family members. So you have to use “otō-san”, ”okā-san”, “onii-san”, “onee-san”, ”ojii-san”, “obā-san” and so on.
At the same time, you should be modest when you’re mentioning your own family members. When you refer to your own family members, you need to use particular words, especially in formal conversation. Your own father is “chichi” and your own mother is “haha”. You cannot use those words to refer to someone else’s father or mother.
Let’s look at some examples -
Someone asks Laura, “ローラさん、お母さんはお元気ですか." Laura should answer "はい、母は元気です."
If someone says to you, " 私は兄がいます.", you will ask them, "お兄さんは、学生ですか."
If someone says to you, “姉は大学生です.”, you will ask them “お姉さんは何年生ですか.”
If Laura says to you, “今日は祖父と祖母の家に行きます.”, you will ask her, “ローラさんのお祖父さんとお祖母さんはどこに住んでいますか.”
Interestingly, “ojiisan” can be used to refer to old men, too. When you want to say something to an old man you don’t know, you can call him “ojii-san”. But, it would be safer not to refer to someone that way, unless they look very old. Also, young men and women can be called “onii-san” and “onee-san”.
I hope this makes sense to you and you’re able to use the kinship words correctly from now on!
Do you have any more questions? Leave them in the comments below and I’ll try to answer them!