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Plain Japanese key to inclusive, multicultural Japan

50 Comments
By Yuka Nakao

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I do not know where to begin, other than to say, you want to be more inclusive and multicultural, then quit with the gimmicks and just speak Japanese!

8 ( +14 / -6 )

Plain Japanese?

10 ( +10 / -0 )

I remember being at a bar and talking to the customer and the master many years ago. The customer couldn't speak Japanese that I could understand but was able to interpret it back into plain Japanese that I could understand. Not everyone is able to do it.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Nice to see someone talking about a multicultural inclusive Japan.

5 ( +9 / -4 )

When I came to Japan in 1976, the only Japanese text books that I could find were basically the traditional English text books made over in Japanese. Instead of "Is this a pen?" that ridiculous and useless sentence, we had sentences like, "Kono hana wa sakura degozaimasu ka?" (Is this cherry blossom?) Though ever so slightly useable than its English counterpart, it still wasn't what I wanted to say. And it used keigo, which is not suitable for lesson one!

Yes. Let's have more plain Japanese. So many Japanese native speakers haven't a clue how to use keigo either.

Keep it simple!

9 ( +11 / -2 )

If you speak to someone (tourists or children) and find they don't understand you, then most people will adjust their speech or find other ways to communicate.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Is it that hard to simplify your speech? There are of course some aspects of your language that you may not realize are difficult ( my coworker told me how difficult things like put on/off/in/out are ), but I think you can just use a bit of common sense.

I do find Japanese people can panic and completely lose the plot when speaking to foreigners. This might be part of the problem.

12 ( +12 / -0 )

 Instead of "Is this a pen?" that ridiculous and useless sentence, 

Actually the sentence in English was "This is a pen!" not a question.

The English textbooks that worked, but were taken out of use, was "Jack and Betty"

1 ( +4 / -3 )

 remember being at a bar and talking to the customer and the master many years ago. The customer couldn't speak Japanese that I could understand but was able to interpret it back into plain Japanese that I could understand. Not everyone is able to do it.

There are many regional dialects in Japan, dont let them fool ya! They generally know the "Plain Japanese! "

but when they are drinking...who knows! lol!

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Nice sentiment and all, but why should Japan sacrifice itself to multiculturalism and globalism? Doing so would help to rob Japan of what makes it so interesting and unique.

-12 ( +7 / -19 )

When i was still learning Japanese, one thing that i hated is when Japanese people were trying to speak too politely with me, and using words and phrases i couldn't understand. Instead of just saying something in a normal way, they would go out of their way to use the most difficult word they can think of just because it is polite. In reality, they made it worse for me to understand what they're saying.

12 ( +14 / -2 )

Funnily enough when I don’t understand or am not understood, I ask to be explained to, or I speak simpler.

The amount of people who cannot say something in a easy way or with more basic vocabulary is quite high however.

And no, the “problem” is not that theres tons of foreigners needing simple Japanese, its that few here can communicate well with them and the infrastructure isn’t in place.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Nice to see someone talking about a multicultural inclusive Japan.

Absolutely! Makes us feel very welcome. We appreciate these efforts from one Japanese brothers and sisters.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

As long as you are a tourist or temporary "trainee".

That’s about the size of it from most but there are exceptions, and in my experience the majority of these exceptions speak English anyway.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Good for them thinking of this.

Will help foreigners no doubt.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I suggest furigana for names and place names in the newspaper. That has always been a hurdle for me.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

The concept behind the use of keigo is not understood by tourists so it is better to use standard Japanese. I like how the local shop people use standard Japanese and a reasonable speed and and add furigana above the kanji characters. This helps

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Japan is becoming just like any other country. Losing their national identity. I didn’t come to live/work in Japan to have Japanese dumbed down to me because I look like a “foreigner”.

-11 ( +6 / -17 )

I'm definitely not sure about this idea.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Youは何しに日本へ?

That sort of thing??

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Well it's backed by linguists and evidence so I'm for this. In contrast, 'yasashii nihongo' isn't and it's not practical so hopefully people will stop using it. As the article notes, more gaijin understand Japanese than English so it makes more sense to prioritise that.

To be honest, this is just 'common sense' and when i first arrived in Japan I was kind of surprised by how people were unwilling to explain anything. People will just repeat the word over and over which doesn't help or reach for their smartphone to Google translate it which never helps really either. It's the mindset of 'gaijin cannot understand Japanese' that needs to be dealt with because they will explain it to a Japanese person...

0 ( +6 / -6 )

Japan is becoming just like any other country. Losing their national identity. I didn’t come to live/work in Japan to have Japanese dumbed down to me because I look like a “foreigner”

Based on my experience most Japanese people under the age of 40 see Keigo as more of a hindrance more than anything else.

Making Japanese simple and less formal is better for everyone, most of the honorifics and politeness seems to me to be a way a enforcing hierarchies and ones position which should be less strict in this day and age anyway.

The idea that somone automatically gains respect based of their age position or gender is antiquated in my opinion, respect is something that is earned not given by default.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

Japanese staff will be trained to say expressions like "shou shou o-machi kudasai" (for "just a moment please") and may even have practice this before a store opens. This happens at the place where I have a side job so I have seen it happen at morning meetings. The staff practice saying it because using less polite Japanese would have plenty of potential for irking more demanding customers.

The same staff could be trained to speak in simpler language to non-Japanese customers and indeed, this should happen in businesses with lots of foreign customers. However, they will still need to have "shou shou o-machi kudasai" as the default before switching to simpler language. There are too many Japanese people out there who will turn their nose up if spoken to in anything less than keigo.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

"The problem is not that Japanese people are not good at speaking English," he said.

I'm no teacher but I blame katakana for this. Japanese peoples brains are generally stuck in katakana English mode, which doesn't sound very much like actual English!

7 ( +11 / -4 )

I'm no teacher but I blame katakana for this. Japanese peoples brains are generally stuck in katakana English mode, which doesn't sound very much like actual English!

You are right!

Katakana is one of the primary reasons why Japanese people level of English compared to other developed countries is so low.

It tends to be a crutch that take Japanese students learning of English or any language down the wrong path.

It screws up the phonological, lexical, and syntactical aspects of English. The more vocabulary added to katakana the worst the situation becomes.

5 ( +10 / -5 )

I do not know where to begin, other than to say, you want to be more inclusive and multicultural, then quit with the gimmicks and just speak Japanese!

I agree! And it goes both ways! Get rid of katakana and just speak whatever language Japanese students are learning!

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

I have a friend who only speaks Japanese - but has lots of foreign friends. She knows that I can hold a conversation about most things, but will immediately switch to 'simple' Japanese for me when the topic exceeds my level. It's really not that hard to do, and I do agree that it would be extremely useful for disaster situations. Probably more useful than the butchered English that NHK puts out.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

KniknaknokkaerToday  11:37 am JST

"The problem is not that Japanese people are not good at speaking English," he said.

I'm no teacher but I blame katakana for this. Japanese peoples brains are generally stuck in katakana English mode, which doesn't sound very much like actual English!

Personally I think you're barking up the wrong tree, in the sense that Katakana is not English and was never meant to be. The use of Katakana to express foreign words was a means to incoporate those words into Japanese text.

Japan chose to use Katakana for that purpose, as opposed to what the Chinese did. Los Angeles in Japanese is simply ロスアンゼルス. If you can read it, you know what/where it is. But in Chinese it is 洛杉矶. Not only can I not read it I have no idea what it is at all. I don't know about you, but I'm glad Japan did not do this.

7 ( +11 / -4 )

Japanese do not have the same alphabet, even Mexican can speak English, because we have the same alphabet that came makeup other languages

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Being inclusive and multicultural is about a lot more than language.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

It's always interesting to see some foreigners in Japan looking down at the newer foreigners. For whom this applies, you think that the recent foreigners are "ruining" Japan... but by that logic, didn't YOU add to the "ruin" when you emigrated 10 or 20+ years ago? What makes YOU more special?

11 ( +12 / -1 )

Don't understand the thinking of some posters here stating that it is a "dumbing down" of the language or you should speak Japanese.

The article mentions over 30 mill tourists visiting these shores has become the norm, so how on earth are they all expected to just "speak Japanese" or understand in the slightest formal or honorific Japanese?

Anything to make communication between peoples easier and more harmonious is to be welcomed, esp visitors.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

Hey, when you live in an isolated country with a plunging birthrate and skyrocketing debt, it makes sense to adapt to avoid total extinction.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Japanese need to learn English properly without mangling their own language...

-6 ( +5 / -11 )

"Every language must be respected, and when we communicate with people who don't speak Japanese, responding in their native language should be a priority," said Akira Yoshikai,

"But when it's not practical to do so at an individual level, plain Japanese could be another option," he said.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who can see a major contradiction in these two statements.

there are a few factors that make this initiative very important. Firstly, Japan has one of the highest rates of illiteracy in the modern world, which makes simple Japanese necessary without considering foreign victors and residents. Secondly, only 12% of Japanese people have a medium level proficiency in any second language, which again means simple Japanese is necessary. Therefore, what they are trying to say is, if you are coming to visit Japan you must learn Japanese before you come because very few people can help you.

-4 ( +4 / -8 )

One possible problem with the idea of "plain Japanese" is that it may make some people focus more on the language than on communication. A sweeping generalization perhaps, but it seems that when communicating with foreigners, some people try to speak more correctly than more helpfully. (This is not just in Japan.) Others, however, focus on communication and are happy to use one-word utterances, hand gestures, whatever, to make themselves understood.

Interestingly (perhaps) is that there is a Plain English Campaign organization in the UK. But is not so much focused on communicating with foreigners as with helping native speakers. For example, trying to clean up official documents that contain things like, "The revocation by these Regulations of a provision previously revoked subject to savings does not affect the continued operation of those savings."

0 ( +0 / -0 )

albaleo

I'm glad someone mentioned plain English in relation to this. I'm actually fascinated by the comparison. What elements make a Japanese sentence plainer?--And how do they differ from the elements of a plain English sentence?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Who are these people trying to kid ???. Themselves ???. There are still people in company that puts a company system in total japanese so that only they can control the company which they did not make. I just witness this from jan 2019. These japanese are still thinking that they are intelligent. Now, show the world , yr true dishonest mean selves. wanting everything for nothing.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

By the way, communicating is from the heart , not just sweet talk. I have lived in japan for 31 years and just talk is very easy for low level japanese.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Simple really drop the mickey mouse accent, drop the keigyo or what ever its called and simply speak Japanese, most foreigners who come to Japan Learn basic phrases and simple straight forawrd Japanese to some degree. Trying to understand Keigyo or what ever its called is just not an option.

Who in the hell undesratnds that anyway when mickey or minnie mouse are speaking it in that voice.

-8 ( +0 / -8 )

Do the hustleToday  04:19 pm JST

Firstly, Japan has one of the highest rates of illiteracy in the modern world,

The Literacy rate of Japan is 99%. This is the same as Australia, Italy, Canada, France, Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, New Zealand, and the UK.

https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/the-highest-literacy-rates-in-the-world.html

12 ( +13 / -1 )

I thought that the term 'plain Japanese' was ridiculous at first, but checked and found that it is a legitimate expression. This USA government site explains the usage: https://www.plainlanguage.gov/about/definitions/

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Sounds good. I'm on board.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

"Inclusive" and "Multicultural" ----surely a contradiction in terms! Japan may become like many (if not most) of the countries in North and Western Europe that have taken in many foreigner settlers only to find that their admittance has had a detrimental affect on their societies socially and economically. Sweden, Norway, France, Holland, Finland, Germany and the UK have all been adversly affected. Time will tell---as it always does!

7 ( +8 / -1 )

The long-winded honorific intros and outros are are most confusing and timewasting part. With a 3 paragraph message, you can virtually ignore the first and third paragraphs, and concentrate on the second, the actual content of the message! Simply put, just get to the point!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Louder and slower? Why pretend this is going to work?

What you need is an auxiliary language. Something that's easy to learn and use for both parties but doesn't take years to learn. Where everyone is on the same level. Something without oyagi committees involved to mess it up.

Esperanto fits the bill, only 150 hours to learn and use. Easy to spell. 16 rules all regular no exceptions. Internationally recognized. Many Esperanto clubs in countries including Japan. Even Duolingo has it. Many schools use it as a language learning tool before going on to natural languages.

Quick to do then, after the Olympics are over go back to regular programming.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

After it's shown to work out, after the Olympics the use of Esperanto would be helpful for continuing tourists and shopkeepers alike.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Change in attitude toward "向こう" key to inclusive, multicultural Japan...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I think fundamentally the challenge they’re trying to address is that most people from countries with heavy multi-cultural exposure know instinctively how to adjust their word choice when dealing with non native speakers of their language.

Unfortunately most Japanese people don’t have this exposure and therefore skill.

Seems like a good initiative that will also help recent residents interested in learning Japanese.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Multiculturalism is about replacing population not language.... Western world naturally is transforming

into multiculti..

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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