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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. #151
    Cute and Furry Ewok85's Avatar
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    I've been here 3 months now on my 3rd tour of duty, and things are going much smoother. I wear a suit 80% of the time and most of the people I meet daily either know me well or recognize me. I walk into shops, bars, government offices, reception counters and I'm greeted in Japanese. I've not had someone greet me in English the whole time I've been here EXCEPT once when I was out with 2 foreign friends who don't speak Japanese (at a family restaurant, the girl did really well serving us and giving the totals at the end )

    Overall I'd say I'm getting a good experience this time.
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  2. #152
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ewok85 View Post
    I've been here 3 months now on my 3rd tour of duty, and things are going much smoother. I wear a suit 80% of the time and most of the people I meet daily either know me well or recognize me. I walk into shops, bars, government offices, reception counters and I'm greeted in Japanese. I've not had someone greet me in English the whole time I've been here EXCEPT once when I was out with 2 foreign friends who don't speak Japanese (at a family restaurant, the girl did really well serving us and giving the totals at the end )
    Overall I'd say I'm getting a good experience this time.
    I seem to be getting the same Language treatment as well. Even though this is my first time in Japan, and although i've only been here for 2 months so far, almost everyone I have talked to or greeted me at a store, etc, has attempted to talk to me in Japanese first. Even though I can speak a little Japanese, once it comes to a point where I can't reply to their question in Japanese, they switch over to english, even if they speak english almost fluently anyways, which I found interesting.

    For example, I was at a resturant with a bunch of other gaijin (who all can't speak much japanese at all) in kyoto, and the waiter asked us everything in Japanese, talked to us in japanese, until no one could respond, then he busted out fluent english on us, and we were all astonished. He looked like he was only 18 or so.

    The only thing that sometimes gets on my nerves is when the second you sit down they put an english menu infront of you, or if you go to a fast food place, they turn the menu on the counter around immediately so you can just point to stuff, even before you say anything to them. It's kinda annoying and feels like you are being profiled, but at the same time is kinda convienient if your japanese language skills aren't up to snuff I guess (and assuming you speak english).

  3. #153
    ************ craftsman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    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 There is no reason to start a conversation with somebody you don't know in the street. ...... 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.

    I sense a lot of aggression here. I speak Japanese and am foreign but when this happens to me - I laugh and usually the other person laughs with me.

    It's a state of mind thing.

  4. #154
    Regular Member thistle's Avatar
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    OK, I've been living in Okinawa tooo long, where all japanese assume you do
    not speak japanese if you are a foreigner, and in the summer visited Kumamoto where I was pleasantly surprised when I asked directions and spoke to japanese there. As soon as I started talking to them they would just chat away to me like I was a native, without batting an eyelid, without making the usual 'nihongo ga josu' comment. I even began to wonder if my physical appearance has suddenly changed, but oh it was so refreshing.


    My feeling is that outside of Osaka, Tokyo, & Okinawa, japanese are more accepting of foreigners actually being able to speak japanese. It's like 'well they live here, they must speak some japanese'. Just my impression, but then I have not been back to Tokyo or Osaka in 12 years.

  5. #155
    Resident Realist nice gaijin's Avatar
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    Well, I'd venture a guess that the more metropolitan areas see a lot more short-term tourists with no language abilities, so the whole "nihongo umai ne" song and dance is our bread and butter. In the areas where a foreigner is a rare sight, one might assume that they would at least know how to function in the language; how else would they find their way into the sticks, unless they were really lost.

    The polite thing to do would be to ask which language they speak, and try to accomodate them. But no matter where you go, people will always assume things about you. Taking offense is an exercise in futility.

  6. #156
    曙金事 (what a tasty dog) A ke bono kane kotto's Avatar
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    In my country the government wants people to be able to speak the official language, and if they can't they won't be able to stay in the country anymore. The law is not yet passed but maybe soon.

    How would you feel if you had to speak Japanese in order to be allowed to live in Japan ? This does not apply to visitors.

  7. #157
    Banned Mike Cash's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by A ke bono kane kotto View Post
    How would you feel if you had to speak Japanese in order to be allowed to live in Japan ? This does not apply to visitors.
    I think requiring some degree of Japanese proficiency as a condition for permanent residency would be just fine.

  8. #158
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    I wouldnt mind at all if they required some basic japanese language skills

  9. #159
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    I think the issue of Japanese speaking English to western looking foreigners stem from a few factors:

    The OP did not discuss the number of western looking foreigners who are actually fluent in Japanese. I don't have the stats, but I wouldn't be surprised that those who can't speak (a word of) Japanese comprise of the majority. This is not America where we are used to seeing East Asians speaking in perfect English. Back in the wild west 100 years ago the cowboys probably had to ask Chinese railway workers whether they spoke English or not, simply because there were few who could speak it.

    Another factor lies in the culture thinking of "meiwaku". They think that it's a meiwaku to ask the foreigner to speak in their language, since they would have to learn it, which is a "tough" task. They feel that they shouldn't be asking so much from the foreigner; rather, the hosts of the country should speak their visitors' language so to make them feel more at home. The Japanese feel that it is their job to not let the foreigner visitors feel troubled.

  10. #160
    Ike Ike! w1ngzer0's Avatar
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    i chose option 3 because well, its Japan not England. People of Japan speak Japanese just like the people of Russia expect you to know Russian and Mandarin in china. ect ect.

  11. #161
    Regular Member lilyofthevalley's Avatar
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    I think it kind of depends on the situation. Maybe someone who looks like an obvious tourist it's good to address first in English, but a foreign man in a business suit probably okay to ask if he speaks Japanese or not. I don't really know. I wasn't offended when Japanese people spoke English to me, or said Nihongo Jyouzu to me saying "iie" or something...I think many people who visit Japan can't speak Japanese ne? Though I guess if you lived there for many years it would get grating...only speaking from personal experience obv. ><

    On Mixi I've had people who after we've written long messages to each other suddenly ask me if I can read kanji, and I thought that was weird..

  12. #162
    Junior Member genmai's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nhk9 View Post
    I think the issue of Japanese speaking English to western looking foreigners stem from a few factors:
    The OP did not discuss the number of western looking foreigners who are actually fluent in Japanese. I don't have the stats, but I wouldn't be surprised that those who can't speak (a word of) Japanese comprise of the majority. .... They feel that they shouldn't be asking so much from the foreigner; rather, the hosts of the country should speak their visitors' language so to make them feel more at home. The Japanese feel that it is their job to not let the foreigner visitors feel troubled.
    1. Do you like Japanese thinking for you?
    Ex: In a store, the staff may think...'Ah, a 'foreigner' (stereotype), he can't speak Japanese. Thus, I must speak English to him. Wait, do I even know if he speaks English? Oh, well 'all foreigners' must speak English (stereotype).'
    2. I think in this day and age it is hard to tell where someone comes from. Yet the Japanese continue the trend of 'westerner stereotyping' to the fullest degree.
    3. In most 'western' countries I don't believe they try to guess the nationality of everone they meet, then try to speak that language. They just speak their native language. It is up to the visitor to communicate in the language of the country they are in. Japan may be a different case due to their history with the US and their already ingrained stereotyped behavior, yet they do not take the 'easy' route, speaking Japanese, they take their own route.
    4. I have rarely had a 'normal' conversation with a Japanese citizen. Most just lack common sense. As soon as most of them see a 'foreign' face they immediately change into robot, idiot mode. They speak bad English, rude Japanese, and use gestures. They don't care and won't ask if you understand or can speak Japanese/English, etc. Of course they'll tell you they can't speak English yet keep stuttering on in their clipped tone. If they CAN'T speak English, then don't keep trying. The Japanese language is based on rank and politeness, yet they display none when speaking to 'gaijin.' Bowing all the while the saying 'sank you' and 'haaro' don't quite cut it.
    5. People come to Japan for many reasons. So, why do the Japanese think we are all tourists who can not speak any Japanese? Is this one of the lovely reasons to think for us and try to use 'English'? Some people come here to work, study, live, etc...We wan't to speak Japanese, yet the locals won't engage (because they don't know how, or have been mis-guided by society, school, parents.)
    6. It is a complex situation....yet as noted many times before, it can be simple. Just speak your own language in your own country. If you need to speak another language if asked by a visitor, they do so if you can.
    When Japanese come to the US, do Americans try to speak Japanese? No, of course not. Japanese expect to speak English when they visit an English speaking country. Thus, why is it any different when we visit Japan? If we save thousands of dollars, plan heavily, fly across the ocean, enroll in school, get a job, study hard.....why can't we 'practice' our Japanese in Japan. Of course we can try, only to get hit with rudeness, crap English, gestures, or 100 mile an hour native Japanese. Oh, and ask them to repeat or slow down, you just get the good ol' broken English reply or pointing.
    If the Japanese feel that it is their job to not let foreign visitors feel troubled, then just answer the questions that are asked in the language that they are asked in. If I say "Ikura desu ka?" Don't reply "twoooo hundoredo satee en" Just say "nihyaku sanju en". If I say "How much is it?" Just say "250 yen." If you don't understand English, that's not your problem, that's MY problem. I should use Japanese.

  13. #163
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    this is logics himself? you have always to ask to the people if they speak the same language as you. in belgium (still one good thing) they always ask before they continue to ask their question if you speak the same language as her/him.

  14. #164
    Back home maushan3's Avatar
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    It is simple. If you ask someone in Japanese, then with all due right, they should address you in Japanese.

    I just cannot get over the fact that I have studied a lot the phrases to the point where I say them in Japanese and the people just finish their answer with some English. Just funny to me.

    Mauricio

  15. #165
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    I think its very polite of any indiginous people attempting to speak the language of a foreignor to make their visit easier. Lets face it, the majority of westerners in Japan will be tourists with limited japanese skills. If you know the language just respond in japanese and Im sure they'll be relieved to continue talking in their mother tongue.

  16. #166
    Regular Member ~Dei~'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by maushan3 View Post
    I just cannot get over the fact that I have studied a lot the phrases to the point where I say them in Japanese and the people just finish their answer with some English. Just funny to me.
    Mauricio
    If you really want to avoid that, you could tell them in Japanese that you don't speak English.

    I chose the third answer by the way.

    I mean, I wouldn't walk up to an asian in the street and speak Chinese (sterotype) to them.

  17. #167
    出陣じゃ〜! White Girl's Avatar
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    They should absolutely address everyone in Japanese! It's quite possible that my child will resemble me, and I think it's horrid that everyone will just assume they are "foreign." It's very ignorant on their part and Japan is very socially undeveloped on this level.

    I used to live in Europe, and believe me, there are TONS of white people who cannot speak English. In fact, MOST white people in this world cannot speak English very well if at all, I am fairly sure of that. Also, I have met a few individuals here in Japan who are white but born and raised in Japan, and thus are Japanese. How arrogant it is to assume so much about someone simply based on the fact that they are white.

    I also don't like getting asked if I speak it or not, because they are again making an assumption based on my ethnicity, which is stupid.

    I can't imagine asking an ethnic Asian in the U.S. or Europe if they understand English/German/French/whatever language of the country I am in, and I most definitely wouldn't address them in Chinese. This is not so much an issue of exposure, but an issue of respect. If you respect others, you will think of how they might feel.

    Nowadays, if someone tries to address me in English, I respond in Japanese with, "Do you speak Japanese?" and if they say yes, then they usually follow up by asking me where I am from, and then I just walk off without answering or ask them what it is they need (the answer of which which almost always necessitates me walking away without any further dialogue though anyway...).

    If someone harasses me enough or spits out "Harrooo" or "Yay!" I just whirl and tell them I don't speak English. When my child is born I will speak English at all times to him/her and my lie will be found out, but I don't care...if they call me out on it I'll just say "I lied, so what?" I've turned into such a snob since coming here...^^ But respect is a two-way street.

  18. #168
    Back home maushan3's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=White Girl;517698]I can't imagine asking an ethnic Asian in the U.S. or Europe if they understand English/German/French/whatever language of the country I am in, and I most definitely wouldn't address them in Chinese. This is not so much an issue of exposure, but an issue of respect. If you respect others, you will think of how they might feel.[QUOTE]

    And I cannot imagine Japan having as big a population of foreigners as Europe and America. Just never. America is a melting pot and this is definitely not the case for Japan.

    Mauricio

  19. #169
    出陣じゃ〜! White Girl's Avatar
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    And I cannot imagine Japan having as big a population of foreigners as Europe and America. Just never. America is a melting pot and this is definitely not the case for Japan.
    Mauricio
    As I said, it's a matter of respect, not exposure. I guarantee you that Tokyo has a larger percentage of ethnic minorities than some of the places I have lived in the U.S. Not saying there is no racism there, but they are at least trying to combat it and the majority of people don't give a crap what race you are. The vast majority of the people here do, and use it to influence their every interaction with you.

  20. #170
    Junior Member genmai's Avatar
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    Yo, Chris K and Dei, if it was just that easy then why are there pages of posts here? Why do people even talk about this? To simply say, Oh I think it's polite of them to speak English or just tell them you don't speak English is naive and ignorant.
    1. Is it polite for Japanese to speak English? Well, I use this example:
    I tell a Japanese person, imagine you study English for many years, work hard, save lots of money, buy a ticket to the US, enroll in a school to study English, then fly across the ocean, with hopes and dreams to study and speak English. Yet, when you get there, everyone addresses you in Chinese, Korean or Japanese. Everyday, someone uses hand gestures like you're a child or a dog. They use simple or rude English and won't speak 'normaly' to you. How would you feel? 100&#37; said they would be frustrated, angry and disappointed. They also say it would be strange. Oh, really? Strange?

    2. Again, I've asked Japanese this: If you ask someone, maybe a foreigner, a question in Japanese, what language do you expect them to use in reply? 100% say Japanese. Oh, really? But usually just minutes before, I had asked them a question in Japanese, yet they 'tried' to respond in English. When I point this out, they are always amazed, yet quickly agree with my point.

    3. To simply tell Japanese people to Speak Japanese is funny. Why do I have to tell anyone to speak their own language? Next, as students of Japanese we most likely can not understand native speed Japanese, yet Japanese don't get this. It's either full speed, or broken English. When I say speak slower or repeat, it doesn't mean point or use 3 yr. old English. This is the point where Japanese people have been missguided or have no common sense.
    4. Having a 'normal' conversation is nearly impossible. Most Japanese can not deal with the gaijin. They just go into robot mode and disappear. Oh, Soori, eye kyant speaku ingurish. Oh, really, you can't? First, I didn't ask you, Second, although bad, you just used English, Third, What the F are you doing, just answer my question. Not once in the US when at a store did the staff point at the register when I looked at them or had a question. If I didn't hear them, I asked them to repeat, as I do in Japan, yet most Japanese can't nut up and answer.
    If these things happened once or twice while here as a tourist, then no harm to foul. Yet these things happen to many people everyday. For me, everyday, 3 or 4 times, where ever I go. And to those who say, oh, it's how you say it or what were you wearing, or it's your intonation, blah blah, can fall on a sword. Sucking up to the Japanese and making excuses for this backward behavior just keeps this country of contradiction in social darkness.

  21. #171
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    Quote Originally Posted by A ke bono kane kotto View Post
    .....How would you feel if you had to speak Japanese in order to be allowed to live in Japan ? This does not apply to visitors.

    I could see where this could be abused. In America we don't demand you know English before coming here, but we do ask that you at least try to learn it once you get here if you plan to stay. If you want to be a citzen then we ask you know English and some of our history.

    It may sound far fetched but its not far from "you must speak our language" to "you must prove you have our bloodlines/race/religion" before you can live here. What do you do, at that point, about those there under the old laws? Place them in camps or ghettos? Or perhaps you issue them special cards so they can keep working. And what is the percentage of proficiency needed to gain your way in? How would you setup testing that proficiency and again how would you apply that to those already there?

    Its the same slippery slide the Germans made to the Nuremberg Race Laws. Though, you could argue, they jumped more then slipped into that hell.

  22. #172
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    I think some people are just too sensitive. I don't care whether they think I speak Japanese or English or whatever stereotype they initially have of me. After the initial contact and we start to converse I just tell them I speak Japanese or if they speak English really well we can speak English.

    Foreigners are a very small percentage of the population compared to western nations like America, the UK and Australia. Within the foriegn population in Japan, westerners comprise a smaller percentage than Chinese, Brazilians and Koreans. I don't know why I would have to expect Japanese to know if I was a long-term resident, Naturalized or nikei. Or why I should expect them to think about it before addressing me.

    The Japanese have different ideas if nationality. Ethinicity and Nationality are linked. It isn't like in America where ethinicity is a separate idea from nationality.

    I think the Japanese Americans have it worse in Japan. They look Japanese, have Japanese names but are sometimes expected to speak Japanese and/or know how things are done in Japan. Being constantly expected to speak a language you don't know seems much more irritating than other westerners being irritated because Japanese don't think you can speak Japanese.

  23. #173
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    I also don't like getting asked if I speak it or not, because they are again making an assumption based on my ethnicity, which is stupid.
    Accepting isn't always about liking it or not. It seems it is natural in Japan that ethinicity is inseparable from nationality. If you understand this then it isn't terrbly difficult to understand why they would think someone who is white is 1: not Japanese thus 2:doesn't speak Japanese. I think people have a problem with the idea that ethnicity matters. What follows is just the results from this idea. I can't compare it to America, it isn't the same. Using America(or wherever) as a reason to justify my stance does what for me? It would just make me angry and frustrated as to why Japan doesn't do things the "right" way.

    I can't imagine asking an ethnic Asian in the U.S. or Europe if they understand English/German/French/whatever language of the country I am in, and I most definitely wouldn't address them in Chinese. This is not so much an issue of exposure, but an issue of respect. If you respect others, you will think of how they might feel.
    Sure I think this is reasonable to expect back in the states. And that is all it is reasonable in the states and other western countries.

  24. #174
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    Should all Japanese directly address foreigners in Japanese ?

    I don't believe they should or they shouldn't.

    It's up to them.

    If they think you speak English, German, Chinese, Korean, etc. and they can speak your lingo. and wish to address you in your same, well so be it.

    If they wish to address you in Japanese, well so be it.

    I personally think it is up to any individual as to what language they address another person.

    Because they are Japanese, they speak Japanese and possibly another language, as do any of we from any given country.

  25. #175
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    I don't thing this should be such a problem. Most of people try to be polite and yes they make some assumptions that maybe are wrong but I thing it's up to you to correct them explaining that you know Japanese or you don't speak English. It happened to me also to start a conversation directly in English without asking if the guy in front of me speak my language. I was once in Belgium in an exchange and at some point I've end up in the French part of Belgium. Everybody there assume i have no idea about French and all the time they were speaking with me in English till I answer them in French they got the point and switch the language. The bottom line is You can't know who speak what so you use the most common language learned by people witch in the last years is English.
    I meet people upset that others assume they speak the language of the country they are. In Moscow it was really a problem for some of my friends that were really beginners and couldn't understand almost nothing. Imagine going to metro station and everything is in Russian, going to a shop and everybody starting to speak fast in Russian assuming that the rest of the world is fluent in this language. Now imagine you meet a cop and he start to ask you fast in Russian about your papers and you don't have a clue why or what you need to show him and he is losing patience....
    I thing this situation might create a much bigger problem that the other one.

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