#Asia #Japan Your Japanese textbooks are lying to you

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They probably mean well. They are telling you something that is easy to understand and that seems like it’s true at first, but it’s still a lie.

I received an overwhelming response to my recent episode on success via public humiliation, and more than a few people tried to set me straight about how Japanese keigo is supposed to be used, so today I’m going to return the favor.

Don’t worry, this is not a Japanese lesson, at least not in the pedantic sense, but it might clear up a few of the lies you’ve been told, and perhaps even repeated about how honorifics are used in Japan and in Japanese business in particular.

Please leave a comment because I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Show Notes

Feedback on Failure
How you are being lied to
Why keigo is not about social status or individual respect
How to insult by being polite
Actually showing respect

Leave a comment
Transcript
Welcome to Disrupting Japan, straight talk from Japan’s most successful entrepreneurs.

I’m Tim Romero and thanks for joining me.

While the coronavirus lockdown continues to disrupt Disrupting Japan’s production schedule, whatever stage of lockdown or reopening you might be in right now, I hope you’re doing well.

Today I’m going to point out something that every Japanese language textbook I have ever seen gets completely wrong.

 
Feedback on Failure
But before that, I want to thank you for all the emails and messages you sent in response to last month’s episode on how public humiliation has been my secret to success in Japan. It was a hard one to make, but it seems like it really resonated with a lot of listeners, and the feedback was really overwhelming. So, thank you for that.

There was also, however, some comments about my difficulties speaking keigo and my description of it as a “mind-boggling complex protocol of honorific and humble forms whose use depends on a non-linear, three-dimensional matrix of formality, in-group out-group status, and the role you are playing in that particular interaction.“

OK. I admit I was a bit overdramatic there, but quite a few people emailed to tell me that keigo was actually quite logical and very straightforward as long as you keep in mind a few simple rules. It is something, they asserted, that can be mastered in a few years of serious study.

OK. Yeah, maybe. But it’s interesting to note that all the emails telling me how easy keigo is, came from non-Japanese. Among the emails I got from my Japanese fans, only two mentioned my keigo comments at all, and they both sympathized, saying that they also make mistakes sometimes. In fact, one of them even mentioned that she can’t understand why anyone thinks rakugo is funny either. So hey, maybe it’s my sense of humor, and not my language ability that’s the problem here.

But to those non-native speakers claiming keigo is simple and straightforward. Well OK, perhaps you have a gift for it. Perhaps its really clicked for you. You almost certainly have a better command of it that I do, but maybe you should consider, that just perhaps, you don’t understand it as well as you think you do.

 
How you are being lied to
In fact, I will go further than that.

Every Japanese language textbook I have ever seen completely misrepresents both what keigo is and how it is used. It’s almost always defined as a “means fo showing respect to individuals with higher social status”.

And that’s just wrong!

It is not about showing respect to individuals and it has nothing to do with social status. Sure, that definition might be useful for people with short attention spans or who know little about Japanese society. But fortunately, Disrupting Japan listeners have proven themselves as having long attention spans and they know a thing or two about Japanese society.

So let’s dig into this. If you are a non-native speaker, by the end of this short episode, I promise you’ll have a new way of looking at keigo.

OK.

from Disrupting Japan: Startups and Innovation in Japan https://ift.tt/3izwbUz

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