Just like English, Japanese also has a great deal of common phrases for day-to-day use. Some of these phrases may not be so easily understood in our language—such as Mottainai (What a waste!) and Shoganai (It can’t be helped). Other phrases, however, translate easily because we share common sentiments in our culture. You’re in luck, because the phrase we’re focusing on today is one of those easy ones! Today, we’re going to learn the common phrase Naruhodo (なるほど)!
The Meaning of Naruhodo(なるほど)
Let’s say there’s this new phone app in Japan that everyone is using, and you’re just signing up. You’ve seen your Japanese friends using this app before, and it looks like so much fun. You wish you could just jump right in and get thousands of hearts and likes like everyone else, but, alas, you’re still getting over the learning curve.
“How do I upload videos?” you ask your Japanese friend. “And where’s the stamp tab?”
Your friend takes your phone out of your hand and holds it in front of you so you can see. “Here, I’ll show you how to do it.”
OMG! She shows you how to do everything in about two minutes! And her explanation is so clear and easy to follow! You’re so happy that you can now begin using this cool new app!
“Naruhodo!(なるほど)” you say to her—or in English, “I get it now!”
Let’s look at another example of when you would use this phrase. Let’s say your friend has just broken up with her boyfriend. She’s really sad and has used up a whole box of Kleenex telling you all of the fights they’ve been having lately.
“So, I told him…” she says with tears streaming down her face. “I don’t deserve to be treated like this anymore. I’m a hard-working, responsible adult, and he still acts like a child…”
The best thing to do in this situation is to just listen to your friend vent, and one way to show her that you’re not only listening but thinking about what she’s saying and digesting it is by saying, “Naruhodo(なるほど)…” In this situation, naruhodo(なるほど) would translate to something like, “I understand,” or “I get where you’re coming from” in English.
Alternatively, you could also use naruhodo(なるほど) when you’re not learning anything or paying attention at all!
Let’s say you’re out with your friends at a really great restaurant. One of your friends is very political and starts going off on a rant. Something about the wealth gaps, Communism, New World Orders…you can follow anything she’s saying. You feel a yawn start to creep up in the back of your throat, but you don’t want to seem rude. You want your friend to think that you’re listening and taking what she says to heart. Therefore, you might say every now and then, “Naruhodo(なるほど)…” In this situation, the English translation would be “You don’t say!” or “Really!”
Basically, any time you hear new information, and that information enlightens you in some way, you can say, “Naruhodo(なるほど).” However, as with the above example, the Japanese also use it as a filler word to let people know they are paying attention when they’re giving a detailed explanation or expressing their opinion.
Naruhodo(なるほど) is a versatile expression. It can be used in a variety of situations.
How to Write Naruhodo (なるほど)
The first kanji is 成 (sei) and is comprised of two radicals: ノ (no) and 戈 (ka). The ノ radical is a character in the katakana syllabary, and the 戈 radical means “tasseled spear.” Put them together, and you get 成, which means “turn into; become; get; grow; elapse; reach.”
ノ + 戈 = 成
The next kanji is 程 (tei) and is comprised of three radicals: 禾 (ka), 口 (kou), and 王 (ou). The 禾radical means “two-branch tree,” the 口 radical means “mouth,” and the 王 radical means “king; rule; magnate.” Put them together, and you get 程, which means “extent; degree; law; formula; distance; limits; amount.”
禾 + 口 + 王 = 程
And, finally, when we put the 成 and the 程 together, we get our phrase of the day, naruhodo(なるほど)!
成 + 程 = 成る程
The most common way to write naruhodo(なるほど) is in hiragana.
Naruhodo(なるほど) is used in situations where you learn something new, and that information enlightens you or helps you out in some way. It can also be used as a filler word to let someone know that you are listening during a long explanation. In English, naruhodo(なるほど) is close in meaning to “I see” or “Gotcha.”