Most of the words for your immediate family are covered in the N5. As you may have learned before, in Japanese, there are different words that refer to your in-group (e.g. your family) and members of an out-group (e.g. someone else’s family). You might have heard of these referred to as humble, for in-group, and honorable, for out-group. Let’s look at an example for 父 (father, humble) and お父さん (father, honorable):
父は こうえんに います。
chichiwa kouenni imasu.
My father is at the park.
あきこさんの お父さんは こうえんに います。
akikosanno otousanwa kouenni imasu.
Akiko’s father is at the park.
Simple right? It’s not always that black and white though. You can also call your own father, お父さん or your mother, お母さん. In this sense, it is actually considered more casual than 父, for father and 母, for mother. So you might say something like the following to your Japanese mother:
okaasan, nanio shiteimasuka.
Mommy, what are you doing?
Note that in the sentence above we are using ています, which is actually too polite to be using with members of your immediate family. In real use, you might say something like the following:
okaasan, nanio shiteruno?
Mommy, whatcha doing?
You won’t see something so casual on the N5 though. Everything on the test is in the polite -masu form except clauses which require the casual form.
Needless to say these two sets of vocabulary can get a bit confusing. There is another very casual set of terms to refer to your parents, which are becoming more popular with young kids:
Keep in mind that these are only used with smaller children (or people that want to sound like them).
Trying to figure out how and when to use humble vs. honorable always gave me fits in my early days. To me, it is better think of them as my family and somebody else’s family. That doesn’t always hold true of course, but it is easier for me to think of it that way. Here are a few more words for close family members you might see on the N5:
|English||To address them or in casual situations||To talk about your own family in a more formal situation (humble)||To talk about another’s family
|Uncle / older man||おじさん||おじさん||おじさん|
|Aunt / older woman||おばさん||おばさん||おばさん|
|Grandpa / male senior citizen||おじいさん||おじいさん||おじいさん|
|Grandma / female senior citizen||おばあさん||おばあさん||おばあさん|
*Using ~ちゃん makes this pretty casual. You will hear this used in real conversation, but it won’t appear on the test.
If you are wondering what the kanji for uncle / aunt / grandpa / grandma are, they do exist. However, they are rarely used and most Japanese will not be able to recognize or use them. They are almost always written in kana.
Other Useful Vocabulary
Here is a short list of some other family words that might come up on the test:
兄弟 – siblings, brothers and sisters
The following words might appear on the test without kanji, written in hiragana only.
親/両親 – parents
家族 – family
主人 (humble)・御主人 (honorable)
This is what is commonly used in the Kanto area, but in the Kansai area you might hear 旦那 or 旦那さん.
妻 (humble)・奥さん (honorable) – wife
Do you think you have it? Visit the N5 Vocabulary Course and download the family chart and fill in the details about your family. The more you visualize this vocabulary and take a little time to link it to real life, the easier it will be to remember. Filling out the chart will help lock of all this in.
Afterwards, you can take a quick quiz to check your understanding of the vocabulary.