Proverb – Japanese

“Kiki jozu wa hanashi jozu”

“He who listens well, speaks well.”

My mother said that she remembers my grandmother saying this when she was younger.  My mom said that grandma used to say it when referring to this one uncle of hers (my grandmother’s uncle).  Apparently he was always interrupting people when they were talking.  My grandmother also thought that her uncle talked too much and usually said a lot of nothing.  The proverb, roughly translated means that “He who listens well, speaks well.”  My grandmother obviously that the proverb applied perfectly to her uncle.  Since he was always interrupting people he was not really listening to what they had to say, which to her explained why he was always not saying anything very important or valuable, therefore illustrating is lack in ability to speak well.

I think my grandmother said this to my mom just to vent when she got irritated with her uncle.  But I also think this proverb demonstrates traditional Japanese values and ideals.  Stereotypically Japanese are considered pretty quiet and reserved and I think it is because it is emphasized with cultural proverbs like this that is it important and better to listen and not be so loud.  Often times in Japanese culture it is considered impolite to be loud.  For example, I visited Japan for the first time this past summer, and I learned that when riding on the trains no one talks on their cell phones because it is considered extremely rude.  If everyone talked on their cell phones it would be incredibly loud on the train.  However there is no explicit law or rule dictating you cannot talk on your cell phone when on the train, it is more of a custom in the culture that is understood and obeyed by everyone.  However on the other end of the sound spectrum, when eating noodles it is acceptable to make loud slurping noises.  It is interesting to see these cultural differences.  For example in the United States, in a place like the New York subways perhaps many people might be found talking on their cell phones yet at the same time in America it usually isn’t considered good manners to slurp your soup when you’re eating it.  Proverbs obviously reveal much about a particular culture’s beliefs and values.

My mother doesn’t speak Japanese but I looked up the proverb online and was able to find the Japanese translation and the characters that are included at the top of this collection.  The website I received it from is annotated below.


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