The 8th Most Powerful Language in the World: Japanese
In feudal Japan, a samurai warrior would yell Mi no hodo o shire! or know your place! when someone did not act according to custom. Failing to show proper respect could result in severe consequences.
Today, showing respect and courtesy in Japan no longer requires such firm reminders. This week we move our spotlight to the #8 language in our series on the world’s ten most powerful languages, Japanese. Being mindful of current customs and business protocols is a key step toward successful business engagement with Japanese-speaking colleagues.
Let’s first review how that list of powerful languages was created. The World Economic Forum developed the Power Language Index to better understand the doors that language opens for us. Think of these doors as opportunities related to geography, economy, communicaton, knowledge and media, and diplomacy. Behind every door language remains at the center of partner and customer engagement.
An initial meeting is challenging when not everyone speaks the same language. To power up your first impression when others speak Japanese, here are five helpful protocol tips and introductory phrases.
- Address both men and women in most situations in Japan with the person’s last name followed by
-san (e.g., Sato-san), but never use -san after your own name.
- Employees of higher rank, such as a general manager (bucho), are often addressed by their title (Bucho) or their name and title (e.g., Yamada-bucho).
- When presenting your business card, turn your card so that it faces the other person, bow slightly to show respect, and say your name clearly.
- A key phrase when introducing yourself is Kon’nichiwa, watashi no namae wa desu, or “Hello my name is __________.
- As you present your card the phrase is Kore ga watashi no meishi desu, or “Here is my card.”
Learning additional phrases and protocol tips will help to make your business introductions go smoothly.
Language challenges are sure to arise when you engage with someone whose language is different from your own—whether at a meeting, via video conference, or on the phone. As the international language of business, English is often used. But isn’t it better to have made the effort, in this case to learn some Japanese, as a way to respectfully acknowledge your colleague’s language?
Such a language effort helps to strengthen business relationships. To learn more language tips and phrases, meet us back here next week when we continue our most powerful languages countdown.
Remember to take the free two-week trial of GlobeSmart® from Aperian Global. It’s a valuable online resource that increases work effectiveness in multilingual and strategic global settings. Use the promo code INTROIQ.
Coming up next week: the 7th most powerful language in the world.