Do you speak any other language at home besides English? If yes, have you noticed that you have a different set of words reserved for when you’re talking to different age groups or strangers?

Well, we’re hinting at the concept of respect here or honorifics in languages.

English is the universal language for translation. It has simple words. For example, even if you’re talking to a grandparent, you’d say “How are you?” But if you were to ask the same question in another language, say Hindi, you’d say ‘Aap kaise ho?’ If you were talking to your friend, you’d say ‘Tum kaise ho’?

You saw what happened there? There is a difference in the way we address in Hindi when talking to someone older or respectfully. And this happens in many languages across the world. There are formal and informal ways.

In fact, in South Korea, when meeting someone for the first time, the locals ask each other their age! This tells them how to greet each other with respect. How beautiful is that! This is called figuring out which is the suitable ‘speech style’ to converse with.

In French, the words tu and vous mean you. When talking to friends, tu is used. But when talking to strangers or the elderly, vous is the appropriate term.

In Filipino (the language of the Philippines), po or opo are used to politely say yes when speaking to an older person or authority. They also add the word ‘ate’ when talking to an older sister. For example, I’m going to the market with ate Jasmine.

In Chinese, the prefix lao is added when addressing the elder. For example, you’d say lao ma for mom and lao ba for dad.

Do you know what’s a great way to learn these? Watch Korean, Chinese, Spanish, and Mexican drama! They’ll be great practice.