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Learn the Japanese Language for Business Communication in Japan

Ranjan Shandilya
Learning Japanese is vital if you want your business to grow in Japan. Read on to know more as to how this effort can help it to expand in the country.
A common language provides us with the means to communicate. If we want our business to grow, it is vital that we learn the language of our clients to communicate with them.
This is because firstly, they sure will not take the pain to deal with us if they have to learn a new language, and secondly, it shows them as to how committed we are.
Japan, though geographically very small in size, has strong cultural values, traditions, and customs. Additionally, with the language being so hard, doing business with this country or with the people there poses a high possibility for cross-cultural misunderstandings. Besides this, understanding their etiquette, and meeting protocol is also very important.
If you have decided to expand your business in Japan and have started getting hold of Kanji, Hiragana, and Katakana, then you need to be careful regarding certain things.
Make sure that the conversations that you are holding are simple and specific, and avoid long sentences. Do not use jargon or acronyms for words that are not common in the country.
Also, make sure that while speaking in Japanese, you respect the correct rules of grammar and punctuation.
Always be formal and very polite in a business meeting, and avoid using any humor.
The Japanese language consists of several levels of politeness: colloquial, polite, very polite, and honorific (keigo). Ensure that you speak in an honorific language to all your business associates until you get well acquainted with them and can move onto the very polite level.
Typically, very honorific expressions are used to refer to the person you are addressing, and at the same time, very humble expressions are used to refer to yourself.
Some more points to remember are that you must always use the person's last name, along with the word 'san', which means Mr. or Ms. Japanese people prefer using last names only. Do not request them to address you with your first name. Also, if you are uncertain as to how to pronounce the name, it is okay to ask for assistance, but do not try to get creative.
Another interesting aspect of communication in this country is to understand that people prefer not using the word no. When asked to respond, they may simply say yes while the answer is no. It is very critical to understand this while negotiating business deals.

Learning The Language

If you are really passionate to learn it, then you will not have to look too far. Internet is an excellent resource and is full of websites that offer free tutorials for the same. Using flash cards, mnemonics, and a suitable dictionary will take you a long way.
When compared to some of the European languages, the Japanese grammar is relatively simple. Factors that complicate it such as gender articles and distinctions between plural and singular are almost completely missing. There are no exceptions in the conjugation rules for verbs and adjectives.
However, the best option available to serve the purpose is via Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), which is affiliated to the government of Japan and was established to provide support for the development of the Japanese trade. One of the activities that the JETRO undertakes is running the Business Japanese Proficiency Test (BJT).
Currently, BJT is running in cooperation with the Japan Foundation and Japan Educational Exchanges and Services and the National Institute for Japanese Language, and it is supported by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Agency for Cultural Affairs, and Japanese business community.
The BJT is intended for people who do not speak the language but plan to do business in this country. All the relevant information is available on their website.
Here are some of the common phrases that can prove to be useful, to provide you an idea about the language.
  • Hajimemashite: means 'I am pleased to meet you' and should be used only the first time that you meet a person.
  • Ohayogozaimasu: means 'Good Morning'.
  • Konnichiwa: means 'Good Day'.
  • Kombanwa: means 'Good Evening'.
  • Arigatou gozaimasu: means 'Thank you'.
  • Gomen nasai: means 'Sorry'.
  • Sumimasen: means 'Excuse Me'.
An accepted fact is that if you want to establish your business in this country, it may take a little time, but you can eventually turn it into a profit-making venture. If you put in a little additional effort into learning their language and educate yourself about their etiquette, then success will knock at your door sooner than you expect.