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The Japanese Fundamentals Every Businessperson Needs To Know

Without a doubt, Japan’s innovativeness and business prowess have made the country a powerhouse in the global economic arena. If you head a business in Singapore, expanding to the Japanese market is a smart move. As with any business, market research is necessary and upon digging, you’d realise that the majority of the Japanese population is monolinguistic. This means the majority of the Japanese population speaks only in their native tongue.

Whether you’ve gotten yourself a translator on your side or are doing business with a Japanese individual who has adopted the English language as a second language, there’s no harm in equipping yourself with another mode of communication. Possessing the vernacular to articulate your business ideas will be a beneficial and strategic move on your part.

Before you enrol to an online Japanese lesson, here are a few facts about the Japanese language to ready yourself for the first lesson.

The Politeness Levels

Japan is a country that places special importance in decorum and hierarchy. This is translated into their language, giving rise to a total of 3 politeness levels: teinego (formal), kudaketa nihongo (informal) and keigo. Depending on the relationship you have with your conversational partner, you’d have to adjust your language to show proper respect. This may include choosing a different honorifics and even verb forms. In a business setting, it’s imperative that you not only convey information, but you’ll need to do so whilst making a good impression of yourself and the company. Not using the appropriate formal language may easily cost you your business deal!

It doesn’t end there either. For business use, there are 3 levels to keigo to choose from.

Sonkei-go: A level that shows respect, creating a clear distinction between the speaker and their partner.

Kenjo-go: A level that shows respect by humbling the speaker and his position to a lower status.

Teinei-go: A level of politeness that is used all around.

Getting confused between the 3 forms is understandable, especially for a beginner. To know when to use any of the 3 forms, you’d need to consider the relationship you have with the person, and whether the latter is inside or outside your circle. For instance, a client is held above those inside your company, even your boss, so you will need to use Kenjo-go.

Intonation Inflections

Contrary to popular belief, Chinese is not the only tonal language in the world. In fact, the Japanese language is too! That said, its tone rules are not quite the same as the Chinese language. Instead, the Japanese language has something called intonation, a subset of tone. The language has 3 intonation patterns: low-high, low-high-low and high-low. By stressing the different syllables of these words, the meaning of the words will change. For instance, depending on your intonation pattern, hashi can mean either chopstick, bridge or tip.

Unfortunately, the only way to get your intonation right is to practise speaking Japanese. On top of your Japanese classes, join language groups to further encourage utilising the language!

The 3 Writing System

The fact Japanese has 3 writing scripts is no secret. The 3 Japanese writing systems include Kanji, Hiragana and Katakana. Kanji is arguably the hardest out of the 3, as it uses Chinese locomotives to represent a Japanese word. In comparison, there is a standard number of hiragana caharacters and they are much easier to identify.

Back during the Heian period, kanji used to be the only writing system used for formal writings. Fortunately, hiragana and katakana are now used even in business and administrative settings. This, however, doesn’t dismiss the fact that you won’t need to learn kanji. Kanji is still widely used amongst Japanese as it helps to considerably shorten sentences whilst still retaining the same meaning. After all, you wouldn’t want your proposal to be hundreds of pages long.

Thus, don’t miss the opportunity to expand your business overseas just by having a basic proficiency and fluency of the Japanese language! Enrol in an online Japanese course during the circuit breaker and you’ll be ready to dive into a new business venture once we’ve flattened the curve.


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