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Responding to compliments

Julie.chan

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Sorry to be posting two threads at once.

In any case: I was wondering about politely responding to compliments in Japanese. What sort of thing do you normally say? Is it just ありがとう or similar?

And a sub-question: I've heard of this phrase for being modest:

そんなことはないです。

But is that appropriate for any compliment, or just certain kinds of compliments?
 

mdchachi

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I'm not sure I've ever heard anybody accept a compliment. But it must happen. On Japanese TV they'll typically say ありがとうございます.
I usually deflect with something like そんなことはないです. I typically say とんでもない as my go to phrase but your example is politer. Or just an いいえ... where the そんなことはない part is understood but left unsaid. And depending on the situation you may want to respond with おかげさまで which means "thanks to you" or "thanks to your help" etc.

As an aside just about every time on American TV when a parent is talking about how great, smart or whatever their kid is, my wife finds it remarkable. Praising your family member publicly like that just isn't done in Japan.
 

Toritoribe

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And a sub-question: I've heard of this phrase for being modest:

そんなことはないです。

But is that appropriate for any compliment, or just certain kinds of compliments?
It's the latter. There are many ways of responses; いえいえ, とんでもないです, まだまだです, 全然です, そんなことないです, etc, as mdchachi-san wrote.
 

Made in Japan

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Hi I'm new here checking the place out.
Thought I might as well make myself useful while at it.
Basically I would say ありがとう is good enough. It used to be that using other words to sound modest was the culture, but things are changing and just shyly thanking isn't considered rude anymore.

I'll give some context on the being polite culture of Japan but I once had this very very polite letter from a lady thanking me about his son, the lady used the word 豚息, which if I directly translate means "pig son" but is an expression she used to modestly mention her son. I do think that the lady is very well educated to know such an expression, but if she just used the regular word for son 息子, in her letter, I would still feel her politeness all the same.

If I sum up the above, if you want to be correct language wise, you can say そんなことないです or other elaborate phrases, but if you just want to be polite, it's all about sincerity.
 

Majestic

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but if you just want to be polite, it's all about sincerity.
I would disagree with this statement. If you want to be polite, some effort should be made to understand the concept of kenson and the language used to affect humility. Gently rejecting a compliment is the essence of politeness in Japan. Foreigners are given great leeway, and so if you say "thank you" in reply to a compliment, the social penalty will be very low, but if you make some effort to understand that politely rejecting a comment is a way of acknowledging the compliment without sounding arrogant, you will have taken a great stride in learning a very important aspect of Japanese.
Note that it isn't uncommon to say "thank you" if someone compliments some external aspect of your attire (clothes, bag, jewelry), but if someone says "you speak Japanese well" and you respond with "thank you", you are already revealing that you still have much to learn about the language.
 

Julie.chan

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It's the latter. There are many ways of responses; いえいえ, とんでもないです, まだまだです, 全然です, そんなことないです, etc, as mdchachi-san wrote.
So just to clarify, different words should be used in different situations? Is that just based on what makes the most linguistic sense given the context, or is there some other aspect to the choice?

I'm also wondering something. Suppose I'm wearing a necklace that someone (let's call this person アリスさん) made for me, and someone (else) tells me something like this:

そのネックレス、綺麗ですね。

Now, do I still just deny it like one of these?

いえいえ。
そんなことはないです。
全然です。

Or would it per chance be better to deflect the compliment to アリスさん? And would whether or not アリスさん is present make any difference?
 

Toritoribe

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Is that just based on what makes the most linguistic sense given the context, or is there some other aspect to the choice?
It's the former. For instance, まだまだです means "still/not yet", so when someone said 日本語お上手ですね to you, this answer works perfectly fine (I'm still unskilled/I'm not good at it yet), but it's innapropriate for 先日は結構なものをありがとうございました "Thank you for your nice present the other day".

I'm also wondering something. Suppose I'm wearing a necklace that someone (let's call this person アリスさん) made for me, and someone (else) tells me something like this:

そのネックレス、綺麗ですね。

Now, do I still just deny it like one of these?

いえいえ。
そんなことはないです。
全然です。

Or would it per chance be better to deflect the compliment to アリスさん? And would whether or not アリスさん is present make any difference?
I think ありがとうございます is the best choice, as mentioned above, whether or not it's someone's gift to you.
 

mdchachi

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Of course you can explain if you want just like you might in English.
ありがとうございます。アリスさんが作ってくれました。とても気に入っています。
 

GenjiMain

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I was actually thinking about this the other day. In the West, one somewhat common reply to a compliment is the phrase "you're too kind". The expression both thanks the complimenting person, but also implies the recipient of the compliment is not necessarily worthy (thus a sign of humility). I'm wondering if such a response could be accurately translated in Japanese, or if using such a phrase is appropriate in a Japanese context.

My Japanese is pretty rudimentary, so I would I guess "親切すぎます" would be how to say it, but I don't know if this would be considered rude or if this is the correct way to say such an expression.
 

Lothor

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GenjiMain - My Japanese wife tends to use a phrase similar to 親切すぎます when someone (sometimes me!) is being suspiciously kind, possibly with an ulterior motive, so perhaps it is not the best expression. What do others think?
 

GenjiMain

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Another scenario I'm curious of - say you had been living in Japan for 10 years or so and were genuinely fluent or near fluent in Japanese. Would it be acceptable to respond to compliments with a phrase such as "well I've been living here for 10 years" or something along those lines?
 
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