Nihongo ga jouzu desu ne!

Questions and comments about living in Japan, chit-chat, or whatever else goes in here.

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Nihongo ga jouzu desu ne!

Postby EOJ » Fri Sep 04, 2009 6:35 am

Every foreigner living in Japan must have heard this at least once. My question to GP and other Japanese speaking foreigners who have lived in Japan longer than I have: is it always a condescending "compliment"? Is it ever a genuine compliment? I've only heard it twice in the month I've been here (though I heard it often in previous visits). The first time was from a professor at Kyoto University, he said it right after I said Hajimemashite. The second time was from a barber, after I walked in and said I'd like a haircut (sanpatsu shite-kuremasen ka?). The first instance was obvious condescension, but the second case, I'm not so sure. When I said I had only been in Japan a month, his eyes bugged out. We talked in Japanese during the whole haircut, and he asked me a variety of questions.

I went out with a colleague for ramen the other day and got an "o-hashi jouzu desu ne" from him when I picked up the chopsticks. First time I heard that one. I thought it was so silly, I sorta chuckled, and tried to explain that when living in Hawaii one learns to use chopsticks pretty quickly. He had a puzzled look on his face. I also mentioned I lived in japan for a year 6 years ago, but this didn't seem to help him understand any better either.

What are your experiences with this? How do you respond? I always want to say "anata mo jouzu desu ne!", or "hontou ni jouzu naraba jouzu to iwanai deshou", but I always chicken out and just say "iie, iie". :)

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Re: Nihongo ga jouzu desu ne!

Postby Gaijin Punch » Fri Sep 04, 2009 10:43 am

EOJ wrote:Every foreigner living in Japan must have heard this at least once.



Lol -- is that a joke? Try a million times.

My question to GP and other Japanese speaking foreigners who have lived in Japan longer than I have: is it always a condescending "compliment"? Is it ever a genuine compliment? I've only heard it twice in the month I've been here (though I heard it often in previous visits).


All depends on the delivery, really. You can catch generally surprise and impression from some people. For the most part though, there's still a shitload of foreigners that simply don't speak Japanese. 99.9% of the tourists, for starters. There's more and more foreigner mastering Japanese, but apparently they live in caves and nobody ever talks to them.

You're not in Tokyo either, so the vibe is going to be a bit different. My favorite is when they tell you your Japanese is good, and then insist on torturing you by making you sit through their awful, fucked up English.

What are your experiences with this? How do you respond?


Basically say anything other than "you're right". I just kinda blow them off and and half-jokingly say all foreigners speak Japanese.

Honestly, I'm more pissed off about the lack of direction. Not the direction in their lives, or as a race...but when they're walking on the fucking street. I walk quickly, in a straight line, and I always have my peripheral vision on. I don't think it's that much to ask people to simply not stare at me and get right in my fucking way. Double the frustration when I'm on my bike. I'm about 2 steps away from attaching an air horn.
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Re: Nihongo ga jouzu desu ne!

Postby Greatsaintlouis » Fri Sep 04, 2009 1:58 pm

Gaijin Punch wrote:Honestly, I'm more pissed off about the lack of direction. Not the direction in their lives, or as a race...but when they're walking on the fucking street. I walk quickly, in a straight line, and I always have my peripheral vision on. I don't think it's that much to ask people to simply not stare at me and get right in my fucking way. Double the frustration when I'm on my bike. I'm about 2 steps away from attaching an air horn.

I'm so glad to hear I'm not the only one who thought that the Japanese had terrible crowd sense and navigational ability.
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Postby zapeipaa » Fri Sep 04, 2009 3:11 pm

My Japanese is way worse than you guys, but I still heard the phrase alot. I usually just answer "mada, mada", though I'd like to answer something else. Some of the people who said it to me did it some time into our relationship, which didn't feel as a complete condescending compliment (as others who did after exchanging two lines of Japanese).

Pretty sure I've got the chopsticks one too. But I've also heard that I hold them "the wrong way" (only using thumb, index and middle finger while others use the ring finger too).

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Postby Gaijin Punch » Fri Sep 04, 2009 3:31 pm

I think the problem is the Japanese's sense of comfort zone has been obliterated over the years. Normally I wouldn't mind but I swim quite a bit. I take my break on the side of the lane as I'm supposed to. If I'm the only person taking a rest, and someone else wants to, wouldn't you think they'd go to the other side of the lane? Of course not, they stand one step in front of me like an annoying prick. Not nearly as bad as the asshole in the NEXT lane (opposite side) who comes up and rubs up against me, often staying there leaning on me. What's weirder is I get a grunt as an acknowledgement of my presence, but they still stay there leaning on me. I'm pretty close to becoming "that gaijin".
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Postby EOJ » Mon Sep 07, 2009 1:50 am

Thanks for the interesting replies. I have to say I really prefer Kyoto people to Tokyo people - no one tries to speak to me in fucked up English here (literally - not a single person I've come across). They only use Japanese, even before I speak to them. I guess people here don't care about English that much. It's quite refreshing.

Last time I went to Tokyo I was only there for 3 days but I got more "nihongo ga jouzu desu ne!" and fucked up English tossed at me than I've had in Kyoto in over a month living here.

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Postby Gaijin Punch » Mon Sep 07, 2009 2:11 am

I got less in Shizuoka (my first place to live) and I well butchered their langauge. Even my host family didn't use that much English, even though they could both hold their own. Little kids also pointed at me on a regular, but that's another story.
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Postby Greatsaintlouis » Mon Sep 07, 2009 3:12 am

I only got the broken English once around the Tokyo area, actually, and that was when a friend and I were trying to find a particular movie theater in Shinjuku and had just decided to cross a large intersection to the police box on the opposite corner to ask directions. A random guy appeared out of the crowd, asked if we were American (I should have said French or something random and maybe he'd have left us alone) and proceeded to be extremely creepy about asking us where we were going and why. After a few polite "excuse me" and "thank you"s in Japanese, we pretty much took off in a full sprint across the intersection to get away from him, as he really seemed to be following us, and not in the "Oh, I see we're going the same direction" way, either.

Most of the time, though, shop staff and the occasional person on the street would usually just use full-on Japanese, which was always pretty interesting for me as my vocabulary was crap, and it always made me focus real hard on the parts I did understand so I could get what the person was saying. I went with a couple of friends out to Shin-Kiba to see the Daigo Fukuryu Maru for this history/politics class we were taking, and when we stopped to ask a member of the museum staff a few questions, he embarked upon a full history of the vessel and the museum/memorial itself, which really taxed my listening ability.

Oh, there was this one time I was at the McDonalds over by the old Mikado in Shinjuku and the girl at the counter started to pull out the English menu and ask brokenly what I'd like. Whatever else could be said about my Japanese at the time, I was pretty good at ordering food from restaurants, and so when I placed my order in Japanese without looking at the paper menu she got out for me, I got a nice, relieved smile and the rest of our short interaction in Japanese. That felt like a pretty damn good victory.
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Postby Gaijin Punch » Mon Sep 07, 2009 3:36 am

Totally forgot one instance where I was with my brother-in-law in Shibuya looking for a drinking hole. No idea why this Eurotrash guy came up and was like, "Hummm. uh.... what's up?" and started following us around. After a minute he was like, "Okay, I'm going to go this way". Weird. Maybe he thought I was someone else... like his drug dealer.
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Postby Greatsaintlouis » Mon Sep 07, 2009 5:40 am

Do you get confused for someone's drug dealer often?
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