anibee's Guide to Nifty Japanese Words 101! (Vol. 3)
In this installment, we're going to talk a little bit about titles, mostly the commonly used ones like さん(san), 様(sama), 君(kun), and ちゃん(cyan/chan).
A staple in the everyday usage of Japanese, titles are deceptively simple things that can tell one a lot about a particular person.
さん(san) - One of the most often used titles. This is used in both casual and formal situations, normally to people whom you've just met or are not fully acquainted with yet. Sometimes, you would address another party as さん, out of respect, whether due to the position held and/or seniority.
様(sama) - A title usually used in formal situations, the person you address as 様 would ideally be an individual of great importance (such as a customer) or of a high position.
君(kun) Â–- A fairly versatile title, this can be used in most situations. Classically used to address males, this can also be used to address colleagues and/or peers of either gender.
ちゃん(cyan/chan) - Probably one of the most popular (and infamous!) of titles used in fandoms, a person you address as ちゃん would ideally be someone who is much younger than you (be it physically… or mentally!), or someone extremely close to you. In recent years, a variation of this, たん(tan), has sprung up from pop-culture slang!
Knowing when to use which title in what situation can play an important role to a successful conversation or social situation.
As a general rule of thumb, さん and 様 are your best bets for addressing someone you've never met before (and who might be older than you), and don't address yourself by a title - only anime characters do that (and even then, only the really quirky ones)!