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    #1

    putting "San" after a name

    I had a big argument with my colleague today that whether or not we should put "San" after a Japanese name when there are few others from outside of Japan (English speakers) in the same room having a meeting.

    I think it should be odd for visitors to see me putting "san" only when I speak to Japanese colleagues and not putting it when speaking to, for example, American colleagues.
    For example; Sato-san, what do you think about what Dave just has explained?

    Q1) What do you teacher-sans think?

    Q2) Some people think calling people with their last name is not right and we have to call people with their first name. Is that true? I think it doesn't matter, although calling a first name might be sounding friendly.

    For them, I am doing all wrong. Calling some one who's Japanese with their last name without "san"

  1. BobK's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: putting "San" after a name

    Re Q1, I don't think people will mind either way. Personally, I like to use the san.

    Q2 - It varies from culture to culture (and over time within a culture). In the UK we tend to use surnames in formal situations. In the US it's probably the same - only the boundary between formal and informal is different. So people get the idea in the UK that speakers of AmE are uncomfortably familiar and in the US that speakers of Br E are stand-offish. So, in your case, you need to be sensitive to the culture you're in.


    b
    Last edited by BobK; 08-Dec-2011 at 16:57. Reason: fixed typo

  2. konungursvia's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: putting "San" after a name

    I think you can satisfy both cultures at the same time. Go ahead and use 'san'. In English, I've seen BBC interviewers use "madame" and "Fraulein" on the air, when only one person "knew" those languages. So why not?

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    #4

    Re: putting "San" after a name

    [QUOTE=Tack;830707]

    Q2) Some people think calling people with their last name is not right and we have to call people with their first name. Is that true? I think it doesn't matter, although calling a first name might be sounding friendly.


    NOT A TEACHER


    (1) Wow! Your question really hit home!

    (2) I agree with you that we should use titles with last names. I used to refer to

    moderators or teachers as Moderator/ Teacher/ Mr. Doe to show respect. Some

    of those people admonished me for doing so. So now I no longer refer to them by

    name.

    (3) I think that you should definitely refer to Sato-san. I assume that you will be

    dealing with educated people who know that -san is a polite title added to names.

    I assume that it would sound "naked" and rude to refer to him/ her as just "Sato."

    (4) Even though you might use -san with your Japanese colleagues, it would be fine

    to call an American colleague just "Dave." Nowadays many people think that using

    first names is a sign of friendliness. For example, medical personnel now often refer to

    patients by their first names.

    (4) Of course, in some formal settings, you will want to refer to both Sato-san and

    Mr. Smith (Dave's last name).

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    #5

    Re: putting "San" after a name

    You can always avoid any possible misunderstanding by explaining what you're doing to the participants- that way no one could feel you're only showing respect to the Japanese there. You could also offer Dave the choice- Dave, Dave-san, Mr Smith and Smith-san.

    When I took a Japanese course, the teachers wanted us to use san with the other students, and it felt strange calling an English speaker by first name + san, and we all used first names in the group.

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    #6

    Re: putting "San" after a name

    Our parent company is Japanese, so we often have Japanese colleagues. I would use "san" with them, but would not do so with an American colleague.

    Americans are immediately on a first-name basis with just about everybody. I think it's something to do with our egalitarian beliefs. There are exceptions, of course.

  3. Barb_D's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: putting "San" after a name

    I just want to clarify that if you use the last name, you use a title as well.

    If my name were "Jane Smith" I wouldn't mind being called "Jane" or "Ms. Smith", but I would think you were rather rude if you just called me "Smith."

    I would also not think it was weird at all if the Japanese people present used the "san" with each other and not with me.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

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    #8

    Re: putting "San" after a name

    Quote Originally Posted by SoothingDave View Post
    Our parent company is Japanese, so we often have Japanese colleagues. I would use "san" with them, but would not do so with an American colleague.

    Americans are immediately on a first-name basis with just about everybody. I think it's something to do with our egalitarian beliefs. There are exceptions, of course.

    I want to live with a global sense of dealing with people. And, I think "egalitarian beliefs" would be the key for me to go either with san or without san.

    I prefer not to use san if a meeting were held in English (in global atmosphere).
    I would put a title when I call someone with a last name.
    Having said that, there would be exceptions such as meeting with a customer who strongly insists to live with Japanese rule/convention/constrain.


    (Please proofread the comment above if there are mistakes. There should be alot of mistakes.)

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    #9

    Re: putting "San" after a name

    Quote Originally Posted by BobK View Post
    Re Q1, I don't think people will mind either way. Personally, I like to use the san.

    Q2 - It varies from culture to culture (and over time within a culture). In the UK we tend to use surnames in formal situations. In the US it's probably the same - only the boundary between formal and informal is different. So people get the idea in the UK that speakers of AmE are uncomfortably familiar and in the US that speakers of Br E are stand-offish. So, in your case, you need to be sensitive to the culture you're in.


    b
    Do you use a title when you use surnames in formal situations?

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    #10

    Re: putting "San" after a name

    Quote Originally Posted by Tack View Post
    Do you use a title when you use surnames in formal situations?
    Absolutely. As Barb said, it would be odd to just be called by one's surname. It's either John or Mr. Smith.

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