10 Japanese words for busy work situations
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.
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.
The meaning of this word is similar to the more common 突然 or 急に. 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.
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.
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.
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 instead of 至急. Conversely, one step down on the scale is 早急 / 早急.
Just like 急遽, no particles are used to connect this word with others.
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.
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.
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”).
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.
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).
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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