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You Say Konnichiwa – They Say Jouzu — 5 Comments

  1. Personally I never understood people’s annoyance with being “jouzu’d”. We all know that japanese is a really difficult language to even get intermediate at let alone master. I think that japanese people are not used to seeing foreigners put much effort into learning the language that hearing someone speak at any level is honestly surprising and jouzu worthy. So don’t get annoyed, think of it as motivation because you are jouzu! Just keep striving to jouzu even more.

    • That is how I feel too. I guess if you live there long enough and get confident enough it can get annoying to some people?

      I find myself saying similar things to people learning English, and Japan is generally even more polite and complimentary so it’s not surprising.

      • “I guess if you live there long enough and get confident enough it can get annoying to some people?”

        Maybe that’s it. I would assume that after you’ve been there for a while and after you’ve gotten to the point where you already know you’re pretty good, it could feel a little patronizing (even if it’s not intended that way).

  2. While I think your line of reasoning may be true in some anomalous cases, I think the vast majority of this exchange just boils down to Japanese super politeness to point of being fake. In Asian culture in general, when you come face to face with a stranger outside your circle you try to be as polite as possible (in general). So when you see this outsider, especially a foreigner be bold and “show off a bit” by showing knowledge of the language you praise them. Like a little kid doing a little performance for house guests… even if the performance basically sucks.

    • Recently I had a job interview in Japan all in English. The position was billingual, so the manager asked if he could talk to me in Japanese. I agreed.

      He asked how my Japanese was (in Japanese) and said that with a dictionary I could get through most things. It was only one sentance, but he went ‘jouzu!!’ and immediately switched back to English.

      My second and final interview was the exact same, 95% of the interview was in English but they asked for a self introduction in Japanese and got more ‘jouzu’ compliments. Was one of the weirdest interviews I’ve ever been in.

      I ended up taking the job but I digress :)

      Anyways, I have found that I think a lot of people are just happy that you learned their native language and ‘jouzu’ seems to be a way to appreciate that. Sometimes it feels superficial (say, when I’m at a convenience store buying something) but sometimes you get more genuine compliments (like I got recently when signing up for pension in Japanese).

      I just take it in stride now. If someone came to America to travel, and had some bad English but they learned it to travel and were able to put their self-conciousness aside enough to speak English to me, I’d tell them they’re doing well myself. I always want to encourage people getting out of their comfort zone and I choose to take ‘jouzu’ comments that way as well.

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