What is it about?

Japanese is a language known for its high level of politeness. However, nowadays peninsular Spanish tends to be more casual, and some expressions like “usted” seem to be less frequent that they used to be. In this paper we see how Japanese learners of Spanish perceive Spanish politeness. Our goal is to detect if transfer from Japanese affects their perceptions of Spanish politeness when making requests in a college environment. Our results show that Japanese language has an impact on how Japanese learners understand politeness in Spanish, resulting in a preference for a more formal style, in comparison with how nowadays native speakers would do it.

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Why is it important?

First, it seems that many studies about requests and politeness focus on how language is produced, but this paper assesses perceptions, which gives information about how the language is understood. This might offer a fresher point of view to scholars interested in Spanish requests. Also, few studies seem to have examined the alternation between “tu” and “usted”, a fact that was a determining factor for us to bring new contents. Our paper will be engaging for those who want to know more about “tu” and “usted”, but this time being explained in comparison to Japanese language. Overall, studies like this one bring to light how necessary is to teach pragmatics to L2/FL students, in order that they can understand and produce politeness adequately in the target language.


Creating this article was a process that began in my head when I started learning Japanese. I struggled so much with Japanese politeness, being so complex and confusing to me. I have always wondered how Japanese students would feel when doing the opposite: throwing away all the honorifics and just addressing to a professor by their name… I had so much fun with this paper and I would be pleased if you could enjoy it as well!

Ángel Serra-Cantón
Universitat de Barcelona

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Las percepciones de hablantes japoneses acerca de la alternancia ‘tú’/‘usted’ en la formulación de peticiones en español L2/LE, Revista Española de Lingüística Aplicada/Spanish Journal of Applied Linguistics, March 2022, John Benjamins, DOI: 10.1075/resla.20014.ser.
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