人 vs 方
I'm confused by this. Apparently they both mean person. Can anyone explain the difference?
人 is more common and general, I haven’t seen 方 as much for “person” but it seems to be more formal. The reading also suggests that 方 is used more often to refer to a group, because it also reads as “side” or “direction” (as in, the side of an argument).
Hopefully these links help.
Actually, there's an interesting story behind the difference between 方 and 人
When you see the kanji 人 ( ひと ) it usually means "person" or refers to some type of person. It can also be used to refer to mankind or people, in general, since Japanese nouns are invariant - they do not change when used as singular or plural. Or it is used to refer to the human species. It's also used to refer to someone's character or personality - what makes them human.
This kanji is used in words like あの人 【あのひと】 he, she, that person, you, 人ごみ 【ひとごみ】 crowd of people, 男の人 【おとこのひと】 man
You will also see this kanji using a different reading quite often (じん or にん) , like in アメリカ人 (amerikajin) American, 外人 (がいじん) outsider, foreigner, 人口 (じんこう) population. 人 (にん) is the counter used when counting people.
In contrast, the kanji 方 (かた) usually refers to direction or way. It can refer to a specific direction ("Go this way" "The lady is over there") or be more abstract and refer to a way of doing things ("Use this method" "do it this way", "this is how it is done").
So for example, the verb 持つ (motsu) means "to hold". If you add 方 to this verb you get 持ち方 ( mochikata ) "the way you hold ~ / how to hold". And the verb 食べる ( taberu) means "to eat", so of course, 食べ方 ( tabekata) means "the way you eat, how to eat".
And for defining directions, this kanji generally uses its other reading ほう, like in words such as 方向 (ほうこう) direction; orientation; bearing; way, 方言 (ほうげん) dialect, way of speaking, or 方法 (ほうほう) method, technique.
But you can also use this kanji to politely refer to people. For example, 方can be used as a polite suffix, similar to Sirs; Mesdames, あの方 【あのかた】that gentleman (or lady); he; she (polite). 方方 【かたがた】 gentlemen/ladies (of the ...); they (of people) - used for politely addressing a group of people.
So what's the relationship between people and direction?
It's a matter of indirectness. By saying あの方 instead of あの人, you are essentially saying "over this way" or "over in this direction" to politely indicate the person you are talking about, instead of saying "that person right there" which is very direct and less polite. 人 is less formal, so consider using 方 if a higher degree of politeness is required or might be expected from you.
Duolingo has the sentence こちらの方は どなたですか。I can't find the lesson right now but I'm pretty sure that there, 方 is read as ほう.
So are both readings possible, or is this one example where the audio cannot be trusted?
I'm guessing DuoLingo gave the wrong reading in that sentence. "kata" makes more sense, based on context. I don't believe "ho" is used for referring to a person politely, although I suppose there could be exceptions. (Gotta love exceptions!)
From what I've seen, Duolingo seems to struggle a bit when it comes to selecting the proper kanji readings. Hopefuly it will be fixed before the course leaves beta.
For now, it's a good idea to double-check pronunciation of kanji using an outside source, when practical. The meaning/usuage of readings is usually not interchangeable, especially when kanji is used as part of a word or phrase. You can end up with a completly different translation or a word that does not exist.
Yes, that is where I came across it. I was wondering about the reading, too. When I type ho in the Japanese keyboard, it does come up.
I don't think any of the three 方 in your sentence are meant to be read as ほう! :D