Practical Japanese – Tips from Company Training Camp

Practical Japanese - Tips from Company Training Camp

The key to clear and effective communication in Japanese doesn’t lie in fancier grammar, but in utilizing your voice and what you already know to their full extend.

Let’s go beyond typical Japanese classes and instead take hints from a company Japanese training camp to find out what really helps to improve Japanese communication skills. This particular training camp was organized for Korean engineers but the exercises can help everyone, regardless of nationality. Read on for 6 ways to make yourself better understood in Japanese!

Why do Japanese companies do Japanese training?

Japanese is one of the main requirements when looking for work in Japan. Studying can be hard but you are not alone! Companies hiring foreigners are also looking for ways to improve good communication: from trying to speak in simple Japanese to organizing whole Japanese language training camps.

Why do Japanese companies invest in language training in the first place?

Japanese skills and training are such a big concern because if any member lacks communication skills, a project is bound to run into trouble. Working, no matter which profession always requires team cooperation at some point, making soft skills essential to maintain a productive working environment.

Especially IT is a field where it is important to accurately convey information. That’s why programming skills alone are not enough, you also need to be able to “communicate the correct contents using correct Japanese” to succeed.

Why the JLPT isn’t a good measurement

Many companies require a certain JLPT score to prove your Japanese ability. But when it comes to real-life workplace communication ability, the JLPT is not a good measurement as it only evaluates how good you understand Japanese, and not how good you are at using the language.

Now the most popular options to prepare non-natives for the Japanese requirements at the office are teaching Business Japanese and specific terminology relevant to the job.

Mastering the JLPT 1 and Business Japanese is a long process. There are actually much easier ways to improve your Japanese. This one doesn’t involve using fancier words and expressions and instead focuses on improving your ability to communicate clearly!

Hands-on Japanese training

A lot of communication pitfalls can be avoided by simply improving your pronunciation, speaking clearly and slowly avoiding long sentences.

Work on your sounds

1. Pronunciation training

Miscommunication often happen because one party cannot clearly understand what the other person is saying.
Go over the Japanese syllables and take some time to really practice the correct pronunciation of each sound. While it may seem tedious at first, with awareness your pronunciation will improve greatly and increase successful communication.

2. Intonation training

The wrong intonation is another issue that stands in the way of being understood. This can be particularly frustrating when what you say is perfectly fine grammatically. Intonation is often influenced by our native tongue. As such, wrong intonation can be hard to fix – but it’s far from impossible.

In Japanese, correct intonation is especially important because the language has many words that sound almost identical. Without clear intonation, the other party can have a hard time trying to guess what you’re trying to say.

Situation-appropriate communication

3. Role-playing

Practicing your Japanese skills in real-life situations is the best way to learn the words and expressions necessary for effective communication. One option is to do this on the job, but role-playing is a fun way to practice in a safe environment.

Instead of textbook exercises, try to make up your own situations that are relevant to you. Practicing certain types of conversations will make it easier to come up with the right words when you need them. A popular roleplay scenario for company newbies is a typical conversation with a client over the phone.

4. Catchphrase

There will always be that one thing you don’t know the correct word for. Playing catchphrase can help to learn how to get your message across. Describe a word in Japanese in a way that your team members will be able to guess the correct word.

To make it a learning experience, add one more step to the game and think about why someone couldn’t guess it correctly (lack of vocabulary, pronunciation, etc.) or how one could improve the explanation. This will really help you figure out what keeps you from communicating effectively, so no harm in getting a little competitive.

Raising your awareness of words

5. Foreign words and Japanese English recitation practice

It’s impossible to imagine today’s workplaces in Japan without English and other loan words. They have become a basic part of Japanese office vocabulary. But the rendering of familiar words into katakana can make it difficult for foreigners to pronounce them correctly in Japanese and also leads to plenty of spelling errors.

Next time you encounter katakana English, take a second to read these words carefully and memorize their Japanese spelling. At first glance, “katakana English” might look like regular English, but in a Japanese context, those words should be thought of as Japanese words – and pronounced as such.

6. Tongue Twisters

The crowning achievement in any foreign language: being able to correctly articulate tongue twisters. This is a sign of true pronunciation mastery. It’s an exercise even Japanese moderators engage in regularly. If this helps them, it can do wonders for you!

Is it effective? The feedback

As a result of the training camp, the Japanese level of the participants improved significantly. They communicated better at meetings, their listening skills improved, and this, in turn, helped their overall understanding and enabled them to create better documents.

While especially engineers often think in terms of programming skills, each member needs to utilize their soft skills to be effective as a team in order to successfully develop new services.

Many of the options above are not really something you will think of when you want to study Japanese. But what makes these practices so effective is exactly that they target aspects you are usually not aware of. Give the above methods a try to identify and overcome your weaknesses that are holding back your full Japanese potential!

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After traveling around for a while, I found my home in Tokyo. Now working in Shinjuku and discovering something new about Japan every day.