10 Japanese words for busy work situations

10 Japanese words for busy work situations
Florian
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Doing business often means being busy – it’s in the name. And in busy situations, communication is essential. In this article, we collected some vocabulary that you can use at the Japanese office when things have to go fast.

The right word for the right situation

If you’re thinking about working in Japan and have been studying the language for a whole, probably already know words like すぐ and 早く / 速く. But there are so, so many more options! In the list below, we collected ten of them. Check them out to increase your vocabulary and impress your future Japanese coworkers with your language skills! (This article was double-checked by Kuramochi-Sensei, Japanese teacher over at Linguage Japanese Language School.)

If you’re just starting out to prepare for your job in Japan, you can also have a look at our list of essential Japanese office terms.

The vocabulary

1. 直ちに

Reading: ただちに

This is a synonym for the everyday expression (今)すぐ. It’s used in situations when something has to be done not only quickly or at a fast pace, but right now, immediately.

直ちに is often used in public announcements related to natural disasters (“Please evacuate immediately”、「直ちに避難ひなんしてください」). In business settings, you can see it used in situations that don’t allow for any sort of delay. It’s a very formal expression and not exactly part of everyday speech, so you’re more likely to hear it from someone rather than use it yourself. When you encounter it, though, you can be sure that things are very urgent.

Examples:

「何か異常いじょうが見つかりましたら、直ちに上長じょうちょう報告ほうこくしてください。」
If you spot any irregularities, please notify your superiors immediately.

2. 急遽

Reading: きゅうきょ

The meaning of this word is similar to the more common 突然とつぜん or きゅうに. It’s a bit more formal than those two, but still used fairly often used in everyday business communication.

Just like 突然 and 急に, this word means that something is happening suddenly and without warning. It implies a reaction to something the speaker themselves had no direct control over. However, human behavior or intent has to be involved in some way when using 急遽. For example, you can say 急に雨が降ってきた, but not 雨が急遽降ってきた.

Another thing you’ll want to remember is that 急遽 is always used without に or な after it – you either put nothing at all, or a comma.

Examples:

「ミーティングは急遽、中止ちゅうしになった。」
The meeting was hurriedly called off.

「ビザの手続てつづきのために急遽、大使館たいしかんに行かなければいけません。」
I have to urgently go to the embassy to take care of some visa formalities.

3. 早速

Reading: さっそく

In formal e-mails and letters, and direct communication, 早速 is often used as a marker indicating that the speaker is moving on to the main subject. Formal Japanese communication usually includes (sometimes quite lengthy) greetings and stock phrases – 早速 tells them that the formalities are over and what comes next is important.

Aside from the meaning above, this word can also be used to say that something is about to be done quickly. An English equivalent is “right away.” In this case, its meaning is the same as 迅速に (the next item on this list). However, 迅速 is an adjective while 早速 is an adverb, so pay attention to the particles you use with them.

Examples:

「早速ですが、先月の実績じっせきについて報告ほうこくいたします。」
Moving straight to the point … here are last month’s results.

「ご確認かくにんありがとうございます。それでは早速からせていただきます。」
Thank you for checking. I’ll start [with the task] right away.

4. 迅速に

Reading: じんそくに

This relatively straightforward expression simply means “quick”, “fast” or “speedy” and is one of the formal alternatives for 速い (the other one being 速やか). I often use it to thank others for their swift responses to chat messages or e-mails that I sent them.

Examples:

「迅速なご返信へんしんありがとうございます。」
Thank you for your quick reply.

「プロジェクトの期限きげんが2週間後しゅうかんごせまってきているため、迅速な対応たいおうもとめられます。」
The project is scheduled to end in two weeks. We have to be quick.

5. 至急

Reading: しきゅう

Similar to 直ちに in terms of urgency and formality but more widely used, this expression is used for things that have to be taken care of at first priority. When used in requests, it gives the message an order-like character. Because of this, you should avoid using 至急 when asking something from your higher-ups if possible.

If you need to put even more emphasis on how urgent things are, you can escalate by using 大至急だいしきゅう instead of 至急. Conversely, one step down on the scale is 早急そうきゅう / 早急さっきゅう.

Just like 急遽, no particles are used to connect this word with others.

Examples:

「こちらは社長しゃちょうからの至急案件あんけんのため、最優先さいゆうせんすすめます。」
This is an urgent request from the president, so we’ll handle it at top priority.

報告書ほうこくしょの件、至急対応たいおういたします。」
I’ll take care of the report immediately.

6. なるはや

This word is a contraction of なるべく早く (“as soon as possible”) and can be seen as the Japanese equivalent to the English abbreviation ASAP. It’s a relatively new word – unlike the other words on this list, you will not find it in a regular Japanese dictionary.

Both the long and short version are used in business contexts, but なるはや has a casual ring to it. Also, compared to ASAP in English and compared to other Japanese words like 直ちに, 至急 or 早速, it sounds somewhat less urgent and can be pretty vague (leaving it up to the recipient to decide when exactly to start and to end the task).

Because of both all these factors – its relative newness, casualness and it’s vagueness – you might want to be careful when using なるはや in new work contexts. Whether or not you’ll be considered rude for using it strongly depends on the culture of the company you’re working at. So get a feeling for “what goes” at your workplace before incorporating it into your speech.

Examples:

「プロジェクトをキックオフするには、なるはやチームメンバーを確定かくていしなければいけません。」
In order to get the project going, we first need to decide on the members as soon as possible.

7. 可及的速やかに

Reading: かきゅうてきすみやかに

In essence, this expression is the same as なるべく早く / なるはや in the sense that it means “as soon as possible.” It’s just a fancier and more complicated way of saying it. Because of this, it sounds businesslike, but still has the weakness of being unprecise and vague.

This expression is best used sparingly and by people who already have a relatively large vocabulary. By using it all the time, it’s easy to come off as someone who uses a lot of big words without really saying anything. When in doubt, use the simpler options instead.

Examples:

期待きたいこたえることができずもうわけございません。計画けいかくを可及的速やかに修正しゅうせいいたします。」
I’m sorry that I could’nt fulfill your expectations. I’ll revise the plan as soon as possible.

8. 次第

Reading: しだい

This word is used as a suffix, attached to the stem of the polite form of verbs. In that function, in means “as soon as [the action the verb describes] is over.”

次第 is a very useful and widely used expression. It has the positive aspects of なるべく早く (in that it doesn’t require immediate action), but is less vague because it makes it clear what exactly has to happen before things can advance.

次第 can also be used in with nouns. However, in that case, its meaning changes from “as soon as…” to “depending on” (for example: 「今日の仕事が予定通りに終わるかどうかは長沼さん次第だ」- “Whether or not the project can end on schedule depends on Naganuma-san”).

Examples:

「ただいま会議中かいぎちゅうです。会議かいぎわり次第かえ連絡れんらくいたしますので、もう少々しょうしょうちください。」
I’m in a meeting right now; I’ll contact you as soon as it ends. Please wait a little longer.

課長かちょうはただいま、せきはずしております。もどり次第、このけんについてかくにんいたします。」
(on the phone) The section chief is currently absent. I’ll check back with him on this matter as soon as he returns.

9. 取り急ぎ

Reading: とりいそぎ

You can often see this expression used in business e-mails or letters. It carries the meaning of “I’m busy right now and can’t send a ‘proper’ message, but I still wanted to let you know. I’ll message you again later.” In English, you’d probably use expressions like “just a quick update” or “just to let you know…”

Japanese companies love reporting and constant updates, and 取り急ぎ allows you to leave out most of the formalities that come with writing a business e-mail.

However, make sure to only use this expression when you truly are pressed for time – and don’t forget to contact them again later. If you’re just sitting at your desk and have no urgent tasks to take care of, it’s best to write a proper message right away.

Because of it’s “by the way” kind of meaning, it’s also considered rude to use 取り急ぎ when expressing gratitude or making an apology.

Examples:

「リスケしたミーティングの日程にっていは明日の14時~15時に決まりました。取り急ぎご連絡申し上げます。詳細しょうさいのちほどおおくりいたしますので、もう少々しょうしょうちください。」
Just a quick update: We rescheduled the meeting to tomorrow, 14:00 – 15:00. I’ll send you the details later.

10. 早々

Reading: はやばや OR そうそう

This expression has two meanings, depending on how you pronounce it. Read はやばや, it means “soon; early.” Read そうそう, it means “right after something.” はやばや is also used exclusively with the particle と while そうそう always comes with に. Don’t mix it up!

While はやばや can be used in everyday conversation, そうそう usually appears in written form, like e-mails or letters. When communicating with a higher-up, only use そうそう when an action has already been completed (and you’re thanking them for something, for example).

Examples:

年始早々ねんしそうそう動画どうが撮影さつえい協力きょうりょくしていただきありがとうございました。」
Thank you for working with us on the video shooting right after the start of the new year.

「今日は午後半休ごごはんきゅうを取っているので、仕事を早々はやばやげるつもりです。」
I took the afternoon off, so I’m planning on finishing up my tasks early today.

Dealing with different situations

When talking to superiors and other people of “higher standing”, it’s often considered rude to straight-up tell them to do something immediately/quickly/ASAP (even if you have a good reason for doing so).

So what are you supposed to do if you really need your boss to do something quickly, but can’t use the actual words? The solution is to use softer language, but to provide as much information as possible and to remind them frequently.

For example, instead of just telling them to answer an e-mail immediately, explain why exactly the matter is urgent and by what time it needs to be answered. As the “deadline” draws near, ask them whether they have taken care of the matter and (if they haven’t) to please do so.

Last, but not least, some advice from Kuramochi-sensei: While it’s important to know the meaning of the words listed here, what matters most is being able to use them in the right contexts. Even if you technically use the right words, there can still be instances where your Japanese co-workers will find the way you talk a bit strange. So once you are in Japan, carefully watch others around you, copy them, and slowly build up your confidence in formal office communication!


Want to prepare for your job hunt?

Are you planning on working in Japan, but struggle with the language? While it’s certainly possible to level up your Japanese all on your own, nothing beats having a teacher that catches all your mistakes and gives you direct advice.

Linguage Japanese Language School in Shinjuku specializes in the combination of Japanese education and job hunt preparation. In both short- and long-term courses, you not only learn the Japanese necessary to pass the JLPT, but start practicing how to write your CV and prepare for interviews right from the start. Want to learn more? Read our detailed article on the school over here or just visit the official website by clicking the button below!

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More Office Japanese

Need more vocabulary for your job hunt and everyday office work? Check out our other articles!

Basic Japanese business greetings
Essential office vocabulary to fit right in
Business vocabulary for job ads
Vocabulary for your resume

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Florian

My love for ninjas and interest in Chinese characters (kanji) were what first made me come to Japan, as a high school student. Over ten years and many visits later, I’ve found a job here and have chosen it as my new home.

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