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Exercise 1: Observing Compliments in Japanese - 1

Red Core Strategy
Blue Important Supporting Strategy
Black Aditional Strategies
Green General Strategies

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  • These two compliments are both about some performance well done.  One noticeable difference between complimenting a friend and a professor would be the use (and non-use) of honorifics.  In talking to a professor, at least the use of desu/masu style would be expected, while the same style would sound too polite, distant, and unnatural if used with a good friend.  So, using an appropriate level of politeness is a key strategy here, just as it is in performing other speech acts.

  • Although complimenting a friend would not be problematic, complimenting someone of higher status can be face-threatening.  Because your complimenting his/her performance can be seen as evaluating it, you would need to be careful about how you phrase your compliment.  The following compliments might be inappropriate to a senior professor:

先生の授業、よかったです。  Senseino jugyou, yokatta desu.  ‘Your class was very good.’ 

先生の説明、上手ですね。  Senseino setsumei, jouzu desune.  ‘Your explanation is very good.’

先生のあの本、とてもよく書けていますね。  Senseino ano hon, totemo yoku kakete imasune.  ‘That book of yours is very well written.’

These three compliments may sound too evaluative and unsuitable to be used with your teacher.  Instead, you might wish to stress the fact that you learned or benefited a lot from the professor’s class, such as:

               先生の授業、とても参考になりました  Senseino jugyou, totemo sankouni nari mashita.  ‘Your class was very helpful.’

先生の説明のおかげで、だいぶわかってきました  Senseino setsumeino okagede, daibu wakatte kimashita.  ‘Thanks to your explanation, I have begun to understand a lot.’

先生のあの本、非常にためになりました  Senseino ano hon, hijouni tameni narimashita.  ‘That book of yours was very instructive to me.’

So note that using appropriate phrasing in relation to the recipient of the compliment is the strategy here.

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