2004
12.12

Me Too

こちらこそ. This kind of phrase is used often when someone thanks you for something and you also want to thank them in return.

Because of my poor eroding English I struggle to translate the dialogue I have with my calligraphy teacher at the end of each lesson. I say thanks and he says ‘こちらこそ’. Then he asks me how to say that in English. I only come up with, ‘No, thank you‘ (‘you’ is bold to show stress). Is there a better way? ‘Thank you, too.’ just isn’t English, is it??

I got into a friend’s car and her mother was driving. It was the first time we’e ever met. She said something like (pardon any grammar misses):

ゆうこはいつもお世話(せわ)になっております。
ゆうこがいつもお世話(せわ)になっております。 [Credit to Miyo]

No one has ever actually said this to me before and I couldn’t even translate it into meaningful English. Sometimes we learn language and when to use it, we even feel some of the emotions that go with those words and yet we’ve never translated them into our own languages. That’s interesting.

I looked at my friend for help. She said ‘こちらこそ’. Ah, I think and reply to my friend’s mother.



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  1. The Japan Times used to publish a series of books called “nihongo notes” which were compiled from a weekly article that ran in the paper.
    Even week they’d introduce a phrase like “こちらこそ” which usually didn’t have a directly translation, and they would tell a story about an “American” salary man working at a Japanese company and how he heard, learned, used the phrase. I found those series of books very educational at the time. I don’t know if they still publish them or not but these kinds of books that provide a context for cultural charged phrases are the best kind to learn from. Sometimes alc.co.jp just doesn’t do it.

  2. Yeah? Those books do sound useful. But as we have the chance, being in Japan that is, it’s pretty easy to start picking up phrases and when they are appropriate.
    I would just hate to be a tranlator 🙂 Well, from when I watch anime with subtitles sometimes there are clearly different words in English just to keep us from wondering what was said that can’t really be translated.

  3. I would translate it as “You’re welcome.” Even though the meaning is very different, the discourse function is the same. It’s the standard way to return a compliment in English just as こちらこそ is the standard in Japanese.

  4. Yeah, we Japanese often use this phrase “こちらこそ” and I was wondering if there is a English word for it. But do you find it natural to say “No, thank you” when someone thanks you and you also want to thank them in return? You don’t say that, do you? I often got frastrated as I had no idea how to say this phrase in English when I was in the UK.
    Now I ended up thinking that “My pleasure” would be their way of saying for “こちらこそ”, a bit different meaning though.
    And “ゆうこがいつもお世話になっております” would be better in that situation, though I don’t know why we can’t say “ゆうこはいつもお世話に~”. The difference between “は” and “が” would be so tricky. 
    ややこしい・・・(--)

  5. Darren bolded “you” in “No, thank you” to show stress. In English, stress sometimes makes a difference, so if you stress “you” in that sentence it actually returns the compliment in favor of the hearer. It means “Don’t thank me, thank *you*.” It’s very humble…

  6. Thanks for clarifying Wulong – my bold text wasn’t clear enough, perhaps. Yes, stress in this sentence totally changes its meaning in English.
    Miyo, I would class ‘my pleasure’ more along the lines of ‘you’re welcome’ although directly translated it might be 喜んで?
    Ah, は and が! Thanks for pointing that out.

  7. “Likewise.”
    But’s that’s probably more formal. Maybe the equivalent is really, “Thank you, too.”
    Thanks for an interesting phrase.

  8. Yes, I know Darren bolded “you” to show stress (thank you, Wulong),and I also tried to bold the word using HTML but it didn’t make it.
    I understand its meaning, but still I doubt if English-speaking people say “No, thank ‘you'” in that situation. ‘Cause I’ve never heard them saying that before… “You’re welcome”,”My pleasure”, or “No problem” would be more natural???
    But in Japan we quite often use this phrase “こちらこそ” in some situations, such as:
    「こちらこそ(ありがとうございます)」
    「こちらこそ(すみません)」
    「こちらこそ(お世話になっております)」
    It sounds very natural. What a useful phrase!(^^)

  9. Miyo,
    Ah, sorry. Basically, you’re right. “No, thank *you*” is a little too humble for most situations. The natural responses “Likewise,” “You’re welcome,” and “My pleasure” are more likely to be said. If you really think the other person deserves thanks more, then use the stressed “No, thank *you*.”

  10. I see.
    Thanks again, Wulong. I got it!

  11. Hehe, this reminds me when i was thinking about the phrase どういたしまして and thinking if you take all the humbleness and extra politeness away from it it becomes どうして.
    Just imagine what would happen if you said どうして rather than どういたしまして when replying to a compliment.
    Tim.

  12. Tim, that’s a great thought you had there. It’s interesting when you actually look at the basic meanings of humble expressions.

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