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View Poll Results: How should Japanese deal with foreigners ?

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  • They should assume that they can't understand Japanese and use gestures

    4 2.76%
  • They should first ask them whether they can speak Japanese (either in Japanese or in English)

    92 63.45%
  • They should address them in Japanese and only use gestures or speak more slowly if the person doesn't understand

    49 33.79%
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Thread: Should all Japanese directly address foreigners in Japanese ?

  1. #126
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheKansaiKid
    I don't mind how I'm approached while overseas wether it be in the native tongue or English. I have blonde hair and blue eyes, generally Japanese think I will not understand them if they talk to me in Japanese and from the foreigners I met while in Japan I would say that was a fair assumption. Some guy I met at a Styx concert in Osaka said to me "ya I've been here 4 years now and have a pretty good handle on the language" then I heard him order a beer in Japanese and it sounded closer to English than Japanese his pronounciation was horrific and he thought himself fluent. Does it hurt my feelings a bit when I ask a question in Japanese and am answered in English well maybe a bit but hey that person spent a lot of time studying English they want to use it. Is it rude? I think rude is in the heart of the partyinvolved. If they honestly are just trying to do their best to communicate with you, I think a good round of charades now and then is entertaining. I will always bend over backwards to think higher of a person then try to assign them negative traits like; rude, ignorant, backward, prejudiced. I hope others give me the same consderation when I inadvertantly do something they don't like.
    I think you haven't grasped that the main purpose of this poll/thread was that many (older) Japanese won't even address you in any language. Don't assume that the question " Should all Japanese directly address foreigners in Japanese ?" means that they can only address us in Japanese or English. As I said (if you read my posts), what I dislike the most is to be met with gestures or people writing numbers to me in shops when I address them in Japanese (and I think anybody who knows me can say that my Japanese pronuciation isn't bad - on the phone I have even been mistaken for a Japanese as long as I don't say something a bit unnatural for a native speaker).

    I also dislike complete strangers who just walk to me and start practising their English on me. In fact I dislike any stranger starting talking to me for no reason (if they want to ask me the way, it's no problem though). There is no reason to start a conversation with somebody you don't know in the street. But I think Americans and Australians usually do that (from my experience). We discussed that in another thread (see posts #9 and #11).

    It may be due to a cultural difference, but I find that responding to someone who talks to you in your language with gestures, like if he/she was a monkey, is very rude. Starting to talk to a stranger in the street, in this case to a Westerner in the hop to practice English is odd, annoying and somewhat rude.

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  2. #127
    Regular Member TheKansaiKid's Avatar
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    And I think you are missing MY point

    sure they may over gesture when they speak to you, but my point is look at it from their side. The older people who won't say a word were indoctrinated that all foreigners were monsters coming to their land to pillage and destroy, sure they found that was wrong but it has to leave some psychological scars, so if I freak them out and they feel I can't communicate with me I'll choose to say it's just not that big of a deal. Old or young, if they act foolishly when they speak to me I don't take it as a personal affront I assume something in their past causes them to act this foolish way and its simply not MY problem but THEIRS.


    And you're right those damn yanks and Auzzies are too friendly they need to learn some manners and be more standoffish after all they are guests here.


    Look, I just think giving EVERYONE the benefit of the doubt is a more comfortable way of living on this crowded little ball of mud we call earth.

  3. #128
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheKansaiKid
    sure they may over gesture when they speak to you, but my point is look at it from their side. The older people who won't say a word were indoctrinated that all foreigners were monsters coming to their land to pillage and destroy, sure they found that was wrong but it has to leave some psychological scars, so if I freak them out and they feel I can't communicate with me I'll choose to say it's just not that big of a deal.
    Only those born and raised before 1945 would be indoctrinated in such a way. That means only people who are over 70 now, but I was talking of people who are still working, so mostly in their 50's or 60's (raised with the Americanised education system of post-WWII).

    Old or young, if they act foolishly when they speak to me I don't take it as a personal affront I assume something in their past causes them to act this foolish way and its simply not MY problem but THEIRS.
    Maybe I should take it like this too.

    And you're right those damn yanks and Auzzies are too friendly they need to learn some manners and be more standoffish after all they are guests here.
    No, not what I meant. I think Americans and Australians anywhere (not only in Japan) are more easy-going in their approach of strangers, in a way that sometimes make me feel quite uncomfortable. But it doesn't really matter. Just an observation

  4. #129
    Heimin
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    I'm literally vexed with being spoken to in English, it is simply demotivating me to not bother with Japanese at all when most Japanese people who speak with foreigners merely want to practise their English, period. I speak Japanese, they respond in English, how fooking stupid can a MF be?

  5. #130
    super famicom dadako's Avatar
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    just don't speak.

    you can't make anyone do anything, thankfully most humans don't get hung up on methods of communication. Because at the end of the day, if you can both understand each other, it doesn't matter what language is being spoken.

    I've often been approached in the street by japanese people, ranting in english. Although try to do that in the UK to a japanese person and they will run a mile.

  6. #131
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    for tourists it is o.k. if they are addressed in english.

    sometimes hotel staff etc. will greet in japanese, immediately after that in english as well. this is an assumption.

    this would let the customer choose:
    to reply in japanese shows japanese is understood.
    to reply in japanese and add information about little knowledge (i.e. "i do not speak japanese") expresses good will/politeness.
    to reply in english simply shows one does not speak/understand japanese at all.

    people who stay longer should give up the dresscode where they came from, especially if it is out of fashion, including everything: clothing, items, shoes. even to avoid places especially designed for foreigners, except on purpose to meet such persons. i know the sentence "such persons" sound a little bit cold.

    if one does not look like a tourist, running around with camera and big outlandish watch, one can expect to be addressed in japanese, or should initiate the communication in short english sentences.

    japanese initiating communication to foreigners can perform the "double greeting" to offer a choice.

    non-japanese should not use gestures as this is inpolite. but sometimes it is difficult to be understood even in "england", it is usual to point on desired items. to point on people is something very rude, needless to say.

    personally i have never been to japan.
    i do not expect communication difficulties.
    not more than i have right now.

    my hope is this post will decrease "peoples un-knowing-ness how to behave". most things are easy to understand. it is good if people ask and not a shame not to know something. one who not asks stays un-knowing forever.

  7. #132
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    I would have no problem with Japanese asking me whether I speak Japanese, or just assuming I don't at first, because I look like a Westerner -- who, after all, don't usually speak Japanese. Not only wouldn't I take offense, I would consider it friendly of them to ask.

    However, I can't understand why they would continue to use sign language even after being addressed in fluent Japanese. Is there some reason they would feel uncomfortable speaking Japanese to a Westerner? Anyway, I would think saying something (to the Japanese person making monkey gestures) like, "nihongo ga hanasemasen ka?" would solve the problem -- wouldn't it? Apparently, from reading the above, it appears not. I wonder why?

    As for Japanese people speaking English to me while I'm speaking Japanese to them, I have no problem with that either. Why shouldn't they be able to practice their English speaking to me while I'm "practicing" my Japanese speaking to them? Fine with me. Besides, if they believe I speak English they may, from their point of view, believe they're being courteous by speaking my native language, so I wouldn't take offense at that.

    As for people who just wander over to you and start speaking English when you don't wish them to, I would think a simple "sumimasen, eigo ga wakarimasen" would solve that problem.

  8. #133
    Okama XD Kama's Avatar
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    I haven't been in Japan, yet, but I already had similar kind of problem.

    on one page for penpals I said that I speak english and japanese. Guy some years older than me (2X) in a mail asked me if I speak japanese, cause he doesn't speak english too well. I wrote back in Japanese, of course I heard "your japanese is good". some words, like ore were translated. next mail he translated ore again. he asked if I know shimauta. I said yes, I know. And told him that The Boom's vocalist was performing it in Poland, and that I heard shimauta before this because I'm interested in Okinawa. in the next mail he wrote that shimauta is an okinawan song. and he translated words like "umi" "tori" "kaze" from the first verse of the song and also "ore". After I wrote him that of course I know about this, because as I said earlier I'm interested in Okinawa, he never wrote mail to me. And that's good, I suppose. I don't want to be treated like an idiot.

    This was the only one situation like this. I have some friends from Japan, and they didn't ever treat me like this. Quite the opposite, unless I say clearly that I don't know/don't understand what they are talking about they assume I know/understand everything. We speak english, when I can't understand/say what I want to say in Japanese. I like it better this way.

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  9. #134
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bramicus
    As for Japanese people speaking English to me while I'm speaking Japanese to them, I have no problem with that either. Why shouldn't they be able to practice their English speaking to me while I'm "practicing" my Japanese speaking to them? Fine with me. Besides, if they believe I speak English they may, from their point of view, believe they're being courteous by speaking my native language, so I wouldn't take offense at that.
    This is because you live in the States, and when you meet Japanese people it is either to practise you Japanese or make friends. But if you were living in Japan, use Japanese on a daily basis for practical reasons, you don't want to have to start decoding the broken English of the shop assistant that serves you, or like Index said, the nurse/doctor that treats you.
    1) You are not there to socialise.
    2) It's annoying when you can't make head of tail of what they are saying but could understand easily if they just spoke Japanese.
    3) They shouldn't suppose that all Westerners speak English (2/3 of white people in the world do not have English as their mother-tongue, and maybe 1/3 doesn't speak English at all).
    4) If you talk back to them in English and they don't understand, what do you do ? Go to another shop, hospital, company or government office ? (well, I have to admit that it never happened to me in a government office, especially not at the immigration office where it is most needed).

  10. #135
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by alexriversan
    for tourists it is o.k. if they are addressed in english.

    sometimes hotel staff etc. will greet in japanese, immediately after that in english as well. this is an assumption.
    I agree. I don't mind being addresses in English in touristical places, especially luxury hotels where the staff should speak at least English fluently. That's their job. I just hate it when I address someone in Japanese, and although they can't make a comprehensible sentence in English, they won't talk to me in Japanese, but in unintelligible babblish or with gestures. That's the only issue raised in this thread.

    people who stay longer should give up the dresscode where they came from, especially if it is out of fashion, including everything: clothing, items, shoes.
    Wouldn't make any difference. All my clothes were purchased in Japan (mostly Japanese brands). Most people cannot tell the difference anyway.

    even to avoid places especially designed for foreigners, except on purpose to meet such persons.
    I almost never go to places for foreigners (Roppongi, Shibuya...). Anyway, I wouldn't have a problem with being addressed or talked back in English in such places. When it's the old woman of the local dry cleaning that won't speak to you at all, what can you do ?

    if one does not look like a tourist, running around with camera and big outlandish watch, one can expect to be addressed in japanese, or should initiate the communication in short english sentences.
    Not true ! I have never looked like a tourist in Japan, except when my family came to Japan and I showed them around. No matter how I dress (suit, casual...), there are places where it's unavoidable, and it's usually in places where they rarely meet foreigners. I often go to Ginza, but never had any problem with people who don't want to talk to me in Japanese there.

    Anyhow, recently I haven't had any such problems. There are bad periods. Now I just avoid any shop with an old, lower-class person, as they are the most likely people to make gestures or feign not to understand me. Never had problem with young people (up to their 20's) in fact.

    I guess there are just too many old, traditional-minded (narrow-minded) people near where I live. That's what irritates me. Let us not forget that 20% of the Japanese population is over 60 years old, and in my immediate neighbourhood it's well over 50% (among residents, without counting the people working in nearby companies). I could just move somewhere else - but shitamachi has its advantages (15min by bike from Ginza).

  11. #136
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    But if you use Japanese on a daily basis for practical reasons, you don't want to have to start decoding the broken English of the shop assistant that serves you, or like Index said, the nurse/doctor that treats you. You are not there to socialise. It's annoying when you can't make head of tail of what they are saying but could understand easily if they just spoke Japanese. If you talk back to them in English and they don't understand, what do you do ? Go to another shop, hospital, company or government office?
    I'm sorry, I thought you said you speak Japanese fluently. If you can't understand their English, why don't you just tell them (in Japanese) that you can't understand them well, and ask them to speak Japanese? If you think that would be too offensive, and you don't want to offend them, you could say that you don't remember your English well anymore, or (if you don't know them) just say you don't understand English. What's the problem?

  12. #137
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    Whenever I meet foreigners in the USA or Canada, I talk to them in English first, as if I assumed that they would speak English. If it seems that they are having trouble speaking english... THEN I ask them if they can speak english. and if they cannot... i try to communicate with them in their native language, if I know any of it, that is.

    I would prefer to have this used on me as well in other countries. If i am going to visit or live in another country, I would like to feel as a part of the country than to be singled out as a weird individual. So when I visit japan, I would prefer a japanese person to address me in japanese, and if i can't understand him/her, then for them to ask if i can speak japanese, and If i can't speak it (even though i can speak an okay amount), then try to converse with me in my native language. It wouldn't make me feel so odd, and like the "ugly ducking / weird foreigner", and more as a part of society. That is why I follow that method for forigners here.

    I think its rude to ask anyone right off the bat if they can speak the native country language without knowing if they can or not.... it kind of makes me feel that the person thinks i am dumber than he/she is when i am asked that. Which is why I don't do it, and I think the japanese shouldn't as well. I kinda clicked the wrong button on the poll...

    remember that this is completely in my own opinion, and doesn't mean im right

    Also... i wouldn't really be offended being spoken to in english by a japanese person in japan while im speaking to them in japanese. I see it as japan is a mostly homogeneous society, and japanese people rarley have a chance to practice their english as people living in countries with a largely mixed population do. Sure... a lot of them will probably think that im a dumb foreigner, and they can't speak japanese to me becuase i won't understand them unless they use english... but I won't look at it that way so won't bother me

  13. #138
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    what about to prepare an office for new workers:

    fitted with:

    a large box of banana's
    typewriter
    old-fashioned ink based pens
    a list with obviously unnecessary work tasks, which requires months
    computer terminal, which does not operate properly

    and to watch the facial expression, when the candiate enters?

    this says more than a sophisticated essay.

    a japanese would: happily begin to eat the banana's, and would start to draw manga.

    ------------

    of course, i am not that cruel. i let people play old-fashioned games, especially these ones, which were stupid even for their time.

    for hours, of course. if they do not have fun, well that's it.

    because i burst out into laughter because of the stupidity once... now, i got an idea...

    and, of course, i make a hi-score board, check mark: cheated/saved/played through authentically to be ticked in by the player. i use to save, sometimes.

  14. #139
    cyber ape's Avatar
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    Just speak Japanese. If it is apparent that they do not understand Japanese, and the designated Japanese stranger does not know their native language, it is best they do not persist, right?

  15. #140
    Junior Member cheryl.ak's Avatar
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    I actually had an experience like this..but in Nice, France. Most people would automatically assume I was an American (I don't know how they guessed it so well... lol ) and they wouldn't even try speaking to me. It kind of blew the whole idea of practice makes perfect. But! One lady in a clothing store tried to speak French to me and I gestured that I couldn't understand her. She said something like, oh.. and walked off!!
    If I'm visiting a country.. personally, I think it's better if someone first speaks to me in their language, maybe dumb it down for me. Then I can at least say I tried to communicate.. and it's more fun that way, isn't it??

  16. #141
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cheryl.ak
    I actually had an experience like this..but in Nice, France. Most people would automatically assume I was an American (I don't know how they guessed it so well... lol ) and they wouldn't even try speaking to me.
    But it's not so much a problem in that case as you are American (from your flag). And believe me, it can be quite easy to spot some Americans in France. The problem would have been if they all started talking German to you...

  17. #142
    Junior Member cheryl.ak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    The problem would have been if they all started talking German to you...
    In that case...I would have just pretended that I understood.
    You know, nod every so often.
    I've done that a bit before with Japanese.. If I can't follow what someone says to me... I just try and look smart.

  18. #143
    Master of the Universe Bucko's Avatar
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    I don't really have too many problems with Eigo-bandits nor people addressing me in English here in Osaka. In Osaka I've never had anyone try to blatently practice their English on me. I occasionally have people make small friendly comments to me in English, but never an attempt at conversation. Although last week a pervy old dude approached my girlfriend and asked if he could practice his English on her, who she politely ingnored, but this was the first time that type of this has happened to either of us. Is this a Tokyo thing? I use to live in Kawasaki but that's when Japan was totally new to me. Has anyone here lived in both Tokyo and Osaka? If so, is there a difference in the language culture?

  19. #144
    Danshaku Elizabeth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bucko
    I don't really have too many problems with Eigo-bandits nor people addressing me in English here in Osaka. In Osaka I've never had anyone try to blatently practice their English on me. I occasionally have people make small friendly comments to me in English, but never an attempt at conversation. Although last week a pervy old dude approached my girlfriend and asked if he could practice his English on her, who she politely ingnored, but this was the first time that type of this has happened to either of us. Is this a Tokyo thing? I use to live in Kawasaki but that's when Japan was totally new to me. Has anyone here lived in both Tokyo and Osaka? If so, is there a difference in the language culture?
    It may explain other aspects of your experience too but Kansai people are well-known for the fierceness of their cultural pride, I would personally say even to the point of rudeness or bias but that's for another discussion, and strong defense of the dialect and traditions....in light of that I guess any reluctance to speak English it isn't too surprising.

  20. #145
    Regular Member yaminohaka's Avatar
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    quick comment, i think nihon-jin should address any 外人 in nihongo.

  21. #146
    Banned Mike Cash's Avatar
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    Quick question: Why in that sentence with three Japanese words did you write only 外人 in kanji?

  22. #147
    Koyaniskatsi yukio_michael's Avatar
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    Japanese people should address gaijin using only the Sony PSP talkman, just like in the mortifying commercial.
    (flickr: pgh, japan & korea, santa cruz ) (blog: eyesonthewires) (j-rock)

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  23. #148
    Back in town JerseyBoy's Avatar
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    I have been away close to 12 years from Japan. So, I cannot comment on this thread from my own experience. But, by reading various comments on this thread, I am surprised to hear practicing English on white foreigners by Japanese seems getting worse and worse as years go by. I am very doubtful their command of the English language will improve by practicing a few sentences on the street. It seems some Japanese are resorting to the guerrilla tactics by ambushing foreigners who look like an English speaker, to augment their English lessens they took at Nova. As far as I am concerned, I am for the concept visitors speak the local languages. However, in the business setting, all the participants need to be flexible on this as deal-making & money-making have to be a priority over the choice of languages.

  24. #149
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    Quote Originally Posted by JerseyBoy
    I have been away close to 12 years from Japan. So, I cannot comment on this thread from my own experience. But, by reading various comments on this thread, I am surprised to hear practicing English on white foreigners by Japanese seems getting worse and worse as years go by. I am very doubtful their command of the English language will improve by practicing a few sentences on the street. It seems some Japanese are resorting to the guerrilla tactics by ambushing foreigners who look like an English speaker, to augment their English lessens they took at Nova. As far as I am concerned, I am for the concept visitors speak the local languages. However, in the business setting, all the participants need to be flexible on this as deal-making & money-making have to be a priority over the choice of languages.
    I was surprised to watch a TV program about Aichi EXPO last year.
    The program showed lots of funny stories about Osaka EXPO'70.
    The funnies story went that "No Photos" after a lot of non-Japanese staffs asked them to take photos with.
    It turns to be a joke even for Japanese now...

    I don't know if there are eikaiwa kids on streets, but just use your critical mindset on the thread like this.

  25. #150
    Angel of Life Kara_Nari's Avatar
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    Hmm seems to have gone off topic a bit, but I havent read the whole thread.
    My bit: IF in Japan, sure Japanese should address foreigners in Japanese, especially if they cant speak english, why should they try? Its their country, and wouldnt it be more offensive if they spoke english to a foreigner who doesnt speak english?
    It would be like me speaking Japanese to Koreans and visa versa.
    Take the saying 'When in Rome', I know in NZ there are few places that make an effort to speak foreign languages to foreigners, because NZ is typically an English speaking country, we barely even speak our native language to each other. However if a foreigner comes to NZ and speaks Maori, it is much appreciated. As it would be in Japan if a foreigner were to speak Japanese.

    I have seen programmes on TV where (typically, as its usually american tv that I watch) Americans will go to a non english speaking country and get frustrated and annoyed that they cant speak english.

    Having worked in tourism and hairdressing, I dealt with many foreigners. Sure I can speak enough Japanese and Korean to get by basically, but if someone came upto me and started speaking French, or Italian, I had no idea what they were saying, so why should we expect Japanese to know what we are saying if we go there and speak to them in english?

    Should everyone have to know every language, just to have basic conversations? No, I think that if you go to another country you should at least try to know a few words, enough to get by, not just assume that they can speak your native tongue.

    Kara-Nari Smarty-Pants Wiz-Girl of the Southern Pacific Queen of Communication and International Arbitration and Diplomatic Solutions to Hairy Territorial Issues Her Majesty the Empress コクネ・ you quite rightly deserve the title for your individuality !

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