“You” and “I/me” in Japanese songs

When I teach Japanese to adults, I usually teach “わたし / watashi” for “I/me” as it is the most generic pronoun for “I/me” in Japanese. However, when I teach children, I say that “わたし / watashi” is “I/me” for girls and “ぼく / boku” is “I/me” for boys. When boys grow up, they should call themselves “わたし / watashi”.


If you listen to Japanese songs, you may have noticed that the word “おれ / ore” is used quite often. “おれ / ore” is a casual word for “I/me” used by (young) men. If the lyric has “おれ / ore” in it, even if it is sung by a female singer, the song is written from the men’s perspective.


As for “you,” I always tell everybody to avoid using “you” at all cost. If you know the name of the person you are talking to, use his/her name with the suffix “さん / san.”


In love songs, however, “あなた / anata” and “きみ / kimi” are often used for “you.” If you hear “あなた / anata” it is most likely that the lyric is written from the women’s perspective and songs with “きみ / kimi” in it is written from the men’s perspective. In everyday language, some wives call their husband “あなた / anata” and male bosses may sometimes call their subordinates “きみ / kimi”.


By the way, in English lessons in Japanese high schools, students translate “he” and “she” into “かれ / kare” and “かのじょ / kanojo” respectively and these translations are usually accepted by their teachers. However, in everyday language, “かれ / kare” (or more likely “かれし / kareshi”) means a boyfriend and “かのじょ / kanojo” means a girlfriend.


Pronouns are tricky, so be careful! The best solution is to use their names with the suffix “さん / san”!

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