For a simple complimentary phrase, “your Japanese is good,” you’d think that I could only write so much about the topic. I’ve already given you 9 clever responses, so what else is left to talk about?
This would seem like a silly topic, but it is as common a greeting as “hello” or “nice to meet you.” It should be listed in the greetings section for all beginner textbooks. Maybe on page 1. Hell, call the textbook 日本は上手ですね. It really is that ubiquitous.
And the worst part is it’s not so simple to figure out how to react. You generally have 7 options:
7. Show thanks
Thank the person for their compliment. Despite you saying only “こんにちは,” you show your gratitude. This is the most harmless response.
6. Be modest
Tell them that you only know a little, or still have a long way to go. This is harmless if it’s true, but if you follow it with fairly decent Japanese it can come off as snarky.
5. Be clever
Say something that allows you to react in a humorous manner to the compliment. This is my territory. Sometimes this works well, sometimes you get an “Ahh, American Joke!” and sometimes you just get confusion or annoyance.
4. Reverse fire
They compliment you, you compliment them. Try complimenting them on their English (bonus if you do this even if you haven’t heard them say a word of English).
3. Act cocky
Show them they haven’t seen anything yet and you would blow them away with your greatness.
2. Get angry
Never a good option, but this is where you show your contempt for the phrase.
Sometimes words aren’t necessary. This requires the least effort, everyone loves a good smile, and it may shield off any negative thoughts you were about to have.
Let’s get serious
To show you how serious I am about this subject, I made a companion video to demonstrate what is discussed here. “Top secret” combos included.
*There are separate subtitles for both English and Japanese. Click the settings icon to switch between them.*
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.