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Communication In Japan

Discussion in 'Asia' started by Corzhens, May 19, 2016.

  1. Corzhens

    Corzhens Active Member

    Pardon me if I sound excited with my trip to Japan. Gee, it's still in March next year (we already have plane tickets though). I am just preparing and trying to gather as much information as I can.

    Now it is the communication. When I first went to Hongkong in 1994, we had a hard time conversing with the Chinese. In the restaurant, it is the sign language that almost failed us. Fortunately with the vendors, they were using the calculator to negotiate with the prices. And in Japan, how good are they in English? Do we need to know some basics in conversational Nihonggo or are there many English-speaking Japanese now?
  2. amelia88

    amelia88 Active Member

    I honestly think that when I was there, there was enough English signage as well as people who knew enough English to get by (with the few words I spoke in Japanese, as well as some gestures to indicate what I wanted/needed!)

    Restaurants all tended to have plastic "display" models of food, too - so even if I couldn't necessarily read the menu (I only know some hiragana and katakana, and next to no kanji!) then I could work out what the menu items were based on the displays. I think that's so cool - I wish every country would have plastic display versions of their food so you knew what you'd be getting!
  3. maxen57

    maxen57 Member

    I suggest you start learning a few basic honorifics, greetings, salutations and sentences because Japan is still struggling with how to communicate in English. It would help also if you will learn some of the basic customs. I know you might not be staying long but when visiting foreigners execute the Japanese way of courtesy, they might not be as distant to you. Since your trip is still far away, this would give you an opportunity to learn the language. I would like to learn eventually so I can talk to anyone when I get there. I think part of enjoying Japan or any other foreign country is being able to interact with the locals and not just appreciating the scenery and culture.
  4. Miya

    Miya Active Member

    I'm sorry to say this, but hardly anyone speaks English in Japan. If you go to a big city, you'll have a better chance of finding someone who can speak English, but in general, no one uses English. Big cities will have signs and menus in English but if you need more than that and want to ask for help from a Japanese person, it's likely that they can't speak English. I would recommend learning very basic Japanese and also having the name of the place you want to go to written down (or printed out). If worse comes to worst, you can just point at your paper and ask "doko" (where) in Japanese. That will at least get you to the right direction.

    I would recommend downloading a Japanese dictionary/phrasebook on your smartphone. Even better if it can be used offline because free wifi practically doesn't exist in Japan.
    Valerie likes this.
  5. Coco

    Coco Active Member

    I tried to find statistics about this issue but honestly, I cannot find that many articles relating the percentage of how many English speakers are in Japan. I know that they study and learn about English in school, but even with that, they don't really apply speaking it to real life. Maybe this is why they aren't the best English speakers in the world. From what I've gathered, there's not much English speakers in Japan, maybe at the most it's probably 15%. Now, I don't know about the reliability of those people... Some would even dare say it's as low as 3%.

    So since you're travelling to Japan, it would be best for you to learn a few basic phrases in their native language. If you can acquire an app or maybe a language translation book, go for it. The thing is, they can understand English because they did study it. But it can be hard for them to speak it, so that's where the barrier starts.

    But yes, I think part of the adventure in travelling is communicating with the locals. It can be quite fun to attempt to communicate with someone who cannot speak English well. And once you are successful in conveying your message to them, it can be a happy feeling. Besides, you can use sign language or maybe buy that shirt with the icons commonly used when travelling and just point the icon you need to the locals.

    Have fun and enjoy your trip!
    Valerie likes this.
  6. Valerie

    Valerie Active Member

    Like what @Miya and @Coco have said: the Japanese don't apply much English-speaking in real life situations. They can recite English phrases like, "Hi, how are you?" and "How old are you?" and "Where are you from?" but above that, you'll be hard-pressed to find English speakers that are even intelligible. English pronunciation is very hard to Japanese. Unless they've attended a hardcore English school or have lived in an English speaking country for some time, chances are that they won't even feel comfortable with speaking English.

    Plenty of restaurants and hotels have menus and documents translated into a variety of languages, but that's about it. Tokyo has a few more English speakers than Osaka. Osaka uses a completely different Japanese than that spoken in Tokyo.

    As the others have suggested, try to the best of your ability to memorize some basic questions: Nani (nah-nee) = what?; dare? (dah-ray) = who?; doko? (doh-koh) = where; naze? (nah-zay) = why?; and when ordering something or asking for the location of something, have a picture or map handy and ready your pointer finger. You're going to be pointing to A LOT of things. The Japanese are very visual people, so as long as you have a guidebook of some sort, you should be okay.
  7. Corzhens

    Corzhens Active Member

    Thanks very much for your comments in this thread. Honestly, I'm still out of excitement since our trip to Osaka, Japan is in March of 2017. Maybe because I am pre-occupied with our earlier trips. Next weekend, we are going to Hongkong. It was a promo ticket by my credit card that I availed which is about 30% cheaper than regular fare. In October, we have plane tickets for Singapore, our usual haunt every year like Hongkong.

    I'm glad to report that my husband is brushing up on his Nihonggo. He worked for a Japanese company for 3 years before and they were required to learn conversational Japanese. So he knows the greetings like Ohaiy, Konnichiwa, Konbanwa, Oyasu-minasai and not to forget Domo Arigato to thank and the reply of Do itashi mashite. Sorry for bragging, hahahaaah.