We’ve talked before about handy Japanese words and phrases we wish we could toss around in English. This kind of linguistic jealousy doesn’t flow in just one direction, though. Japanese businesspeople regularly make use of a number of English phrases, either because they’re more concise, precise, or just sound cooler to their ears than their Japanese counterparts.
Sometimes, though, knowing English isn’t enough to understand these loanwords, since their pronunciations can get pretty garbled in the transition from English to Japanese speakers. Feeling confident in your ability to translate English translated into Japanese back into English? Read on and see how many you can decipher.
As a quick primer on how the pronunciation of English loanwords gets corrupted, it’s important to remember two things about the Japanese language. First, there are a handful of sounds that just don’t exist in Japanese, most famously “l,” but also “v,” “si,” “du,” and “th,” to name a few.
Second, with a few exceptions such as “cha,” “tsu,” and “shi,” and combinations with “n,” you can’t have two consecutive consonants in a single syllable, meaning that each consonant always comes with a vowel sound attached to it. Combined with the complete lack of certain sounds we mentioned above, this is why, for example, technology giant Apple gets pronounced “Appuru” in Japanese (the double ‘p’ indicates a delay a fraction of a second long before the second syllable, in case you were wondering).
Okay, no more hints. It’s time to get this quiz started!
Starting off with an easy one, this is “agree.” For example, when asked his opinion regarding an offer, your Japanese coworker might give his stance as agurii. Sadly, this one can cause confusion amongst lower-level Japanese English speakers as “agree,” “ugly,” and even “angry” all sound remarkably similar to their ears.
If whoever’s calling the shots is ready to agurii, he’ll probably let his counterparts know that he’s ready to komitto, or “commit” to the project. Once again, the double consonant here denotes a pause a fraction of a second long before that particular syllable. Try to komitto that rule to memory, ne.
Of course, a cornerstone of Japanese workplace harmony is making sure everyone in the organization is on the same page, which is why business deals tend to take longer here than in many Western countries. Odds are, even if the person you spoke to in the meeting seemed enthusiastic about your offer, before he can komitto he’ll have to go back to his office and make sure there’s a konsensasu (“consensus”) among the rest of his coworkers.
Of course, no matter how good the proposal sounds, it’s always necessary to make sure your business dealings are all above-board. To that end, you’ll want to research any relevant regyureeshon, or “regulations” (which loses its terminal “S” because Japanese vocabulary doesn’t differentiate between singular and plural nouns).
Of course, just reading and familiarizing yourself with the regyureeshon isn’t enough. You’ll also need to check the items of the contract against them to make sure everything is in a state of konpuraiansu (“compliance”). Why is compliance written in Japanese with an “n” and not an “m”? Like we said, all Japanese consonants except “n” come with a vowel attached, so if they’d used an “m” , or rather a “mu“, the already vowel-packed word would have ended up being komupuraiansu. Yikes.
6. besuto efooto
Finally, if everything checks out, once you sign the contract and it’s time to get to work, it’s imperative that every member of the team give his or her besuto efooto/best effort.
After all, in the modern, competitive marketplace, that’s the only way to succeed in business, or bijinesu, as the Japanese call it.
Heard any other borrowed business words in office Japanese? Let us know in the comments section below!