Basic rules of business and honorific Japanese

If you have decided to look for a Japanese company or you are applying for a Japanese speaking position then this article is for you. You might think that the difficulty of mastering a business level knowledge is the same, regardless of the target language . The disappointing fact is that Japanese is an exception. You don't only have to study more vocabulary or expressions, but in the same time you will need to deepen your knowledge regarding culture and business environment.

When using honorific Japanese in a given environment or situation the usage of "cushion words" are advised

As I have already mentioned in my previous article the Japanese society has fragmented in many ways during history. As a result honorific language and every day Japanese are very different.

When you talk to your partner in Japanese depending on your and his or her social status you have to use different expressions and this differentiation is very sophisticated. It might sound very difficult for the first time but I can guarantee that even native speakers have problems when asking them about the proper usage.

Avoid using loose phrases when in a business enviroment

This is interesting in a way, because fresh grads spend almost a year looking for jobs, and while doing interviews they are forced to use honorific expressions otherwise the interview ends quickly.

The last uni year is dedicated for job-seeking and in order to teach students the proper and desired language in a given situation, universities usually organize courses for them. I have chosen a few expressions that might be useful for somebody who is planning to find a job in Japan.

One of the most important moment is when you answer the phone. This is the time when your employee or somebody from the human resource department tells you the next steps.

If you are dealing with keigo (敬語、honorific phrases), I suppose that you already know the way you should answer the phone. The basic phrase that we use here is もしもし. This works, when we are talking to our friends or somebody inferior. The question that who your inferior is, is a little bit difficult to answer, thus I am planning to write a whole article on that.

If the phone call is related to your job or your business you have to answer by saying ”はい、。。。(name)です!”. The logic behind this is that the one who is calling you doesn't need to guess your name because you're saying it in advance.

There is a special class of Japanese expressions called the "cushion expressions (ja.: クッション言葉(ことば))". They are used to ease specific situations, usually when somebody has some bad news to tell. I found these a little bit weird, because in English we don't use them, instead we try to argue or in the worst case swear. Most of the cases we put these expressions at the beginning of the sentence in order to make a hint about the rest of the content. All right let's see some simple expressions.

  • 申(もう)し訳(わけ)ございませんが ー I am sorry but...
  • 申し訳ございませんが、明日(あした)の会議(かいぎ)欠席(けっせき)させていただきたです。ー I am sorry but I cannot attend the meeting tomorrow.
  • 宜(よろ)しければ ー If it's appropriate, ...
  • 宜しければ、電話番号(でんわばんごう)教(おし)えて頂(いただ)けますか? ー Could you tell me your phone number ?
  • 承知(しょうち)しました ー Understood.
  • 会議のこと承知しました ー I have understood the details about the meeting.

The most difficult task is to position ourselves in the given situation

When you are writing business Japanese letters you have to use "keigo" expressions. As a basic rule, I would say that when you're writing your first letter to your partner, use the most polite words and forms. Later, as your business connections progress, you can write your letter in a less polite way. Naturally, when it's about business you are not allowed to use loose expressions or rude phrases.

Let's see a simple example, when you would like your superior to have a look at something:

  • ねが)い申(もう)し上(あげ)げます。
  • こちらをご覧(らん)になってください。
  • ご笑覧(しょうらん)ください。

The three sentences above, have basically the same meaning, but their level of politeness is a little bit different. I would say that the longer it is the more polite.

After you have mastered these basic honorific expressions don't forget to learn a little bit about how to form humble sentences and make your Japanese more sophisticated. Keep in mind that if you misuse 謙譲語(けんじょうご、humble phrases) and 尊敬語(そんけいご、honorific phrases) you might offend your superior which is obliviously not desired and can get you in trouble in a Japanese business environment.

I want to learn the Japanese Adjectives


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