How To Communicate Effectively With The Japanese?
Foreign language learning places a lot of emphasis on the verbal aspects on how to say something. But, often in real life the non-verbal aspects are no less important, if not Japanese Dinnerware more important than the language itself. Language and culture are interrelated and being able to communicate effectively in a foreign language entails that the speaker knows not only the linguistic aspect of the language, but also how it should be used in context.
In a time when intercultural communication happens frequently, knowing the communication style of another country can be beneficial in many contexts. For example, a management staff who is sent to Japan to lead a team of Japanese staff, or a lawyer who is retained by a Japanese firm to handle the company’s international contracts, or businessmen and women who deal with the Japanese, or an ESL teacher for Japanese students. Communication, transaction, and relationship will be much easier when one has a good understanding of the other culture.
From the linguistic aspect, Japanese uses different structures to denote degrees of formality and social hierarchy. A very formal thank you would be doomo arigatoo gozaimasu, a plain thank you would be arigatoo, and a casual thank you would be doomo. Men and women sometimes use different words. It is very important to understand the social hierarchy in a given context to decide which structure should be used to prevent faux pas. The Japanese also treat the use of the second personal pronoun you in a different way. Japanese would use a title instead of using you directly, which is more respectful. In many settings, it is also rare to call someone simply by their first name. Office co-workers, for instance, would address their colleague with a title -san after the family name. Team members would address their manager as kacho and the company boss as syacho. And for people who belong to certain occupations, such as a teacher, a doctor, or a lawyer, they will be called sensei. Very important people should be addressed with the title -sama after their surname, which includes customers (o-kyaku-sama).
It is a norm to display emotional sensitivity to others and guard one’s emotional expressions. This makes Japanese people sometime appear to be expressionless to people from other cultures and create frustration because it makes it hard to read their facial expressions. Because Japanese speakers have been trained to be emphatic to other’s feelings, it makes it hard for them to say no directly to refuse someone. Sometimes, Japanese would say yes to avoid upsetting the other person. In order to avoid confusion, foreigners need to be able to recognise cues which mean no. Japanese are also reluctant to receive compliments. This is because the society values group spirit and to stand out as an individual is socially awkward. Hence, when a Japanese is complimented, he or she would respond with humility, such as iie (literally meaning no), showing that it is no big deal and is not worth a mention. This modesty is known as enryo. Sometimes when talking to foreigners, Japanese would still indulge in this practice and risk sound lacking self-confidence.