Does “naruhodo” mean the same thing as “soodesuka” (I see)? Why does my Japanese friend give me a strange look when I reply with “naruhodo”?
Answer by Japanese teacher
I’m not sure what your friend said before you replied naruhodo but naruhodo is not exactly the same as soodesuka.
Soodesuka means “I see” and is used when you realize or understand something that you did not do so previously.
なるほど naruhodo also means “I see” but there is an additional nuance to it. You must accept and agree to what someone has mentioned. Soodesuka does not have this nuance. You don’t have to accept or agree to someone’s opinion. Let’s look at the following examples.
A: 明日(あした)ちょっと病院(びょういん)へ行(い)きます。Ashita chotto byooin e ikimasu. (I’m going to the hospital tomorrow.)
B: そうですか。お大事(だいじ)に。Soo desu ka. Odaijini. (I see. Take care.)
It would be weird if you say naruhodo here because you don’t have to agree or accept the fact that A is going to the hospital. Soodesuka is more appropriate here.
A: こうすれば簡単(かんたん)ですよ。Koosureba kantan desuyo. (It’s easy if you do it like this.)
B: なるほど / そうですか。Naruhodo / Soodesuka. (I see.)
For example 2, you say naruhodo because you agree and accept what A has said that it is indeed easy if you follow A’s instructions. You can also say soodesuka here because you realized something that you did not realize before.
I hope this explains how to use naruhodo and soodesuka.