We had a Japanese visitor in our company today. When I introduced myself in Japanese, he was surprised and said that I was good at it (Nihongo ga joozudesune. 日本語(にほんご)が上手(じょうず)ですね。).

I was a bit embarrassed as I could only manage simple greetings. Does he really mean it?


Answer by Professional Japanese Teacher
Speaking a different language is not easy for most people. It requires some time and effort to learn and master a new language.

If you have read our article “Is Japanese language difficult to learn? Let’s look at the characteristics of the language”, you would have known that the Japanese language follows a subject-object-verb (SOV) pattern which is very different from English or Chinese which follows the subject-verb-object (SVO) pattern.

It is thus difficult for Japanese people to learn English or other languages because the Word order is completely different.

Similarly, many Japanese people would think that it is equally difficult for a foreigner to learn Japanese. To many Japanese people, communicating with foreigners requires tremendous courage and effort. So most of them say “Nihongo ga joozudesune.” to

(1) Recognize the amount of effort you’ve put in to learn the language.
(2) Show you that they are impressed.
(3) Compliment your Japanese ability out of politeness.

So how do you respond if someone says “Nihongo ga joozudesune.” to you? You may want to say “ Arigatoo gozaimasu. (Thank you) “ but it may come across as a bit conceited. You can say “ Iie, mada mada desu.いいえ、まだまだです。 (No, I’m not there yet.) “ to be polite. Try it next time!