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Calling a Business in Japanese

If you are just learning Japanese or maybe even are an intermediate speaker, making a professional phone call (a call to a business or company) can be a little bit intimidating. This article contains a few tips you can use, as well as some Japanese words and phrases that should help you out.

The difficulties

Speaking on the phone adds additional communication barriers. First of all you can’t see the persons face and gestures. This means you have to have a greater understanding of the language. It is also possible that you could get a bad connection or have  times when the phone cuts out. That is difficult enough in your own language, but more so in a second language.

But probably the biggest difficulty to speaking on the phone in Japanese has to do with the use of Keigo. For those who don’t know, keigo is an honorific form of Japanese and actually has a completely different set of words. It is the common method used in any kind of professional setting.

Lastly, you will be dealing with your own nervousness. Worrying that you might misunderstand or not be able to speak adds additional stress that can make your mind go blank. I have experienced this many times.

Make Japanese phone calls with ease

1. Don’t be afraid

If you are nervous you will have difficulty speaking. Just remember it is okay to make mistakes. If they don’t understand what you mean, then just explain it a different way (even more practice). It can be scary, but the more you do it the easier it gets.

Each phone call you make is a chance to practice. Don’t pass it up. It can be easy to ask a friend to make the phone call for you, but it will be much more helpful for you if you try and do it yourself. Once you realize you can do it, you will gain a lot of confidence.

2. Getting past keigo

There are actually two ways around this. The first is to practice and become familiar with using keigo. If you plan to live in Japan for a an extended time this is a good idea.

The second is much more simple. Just ask them kindly to not use keigo. Also, don’t feel bad about asking them to repeat or slow down. It is very common for support to speak very fast because they are basically saying the same things to each customer. Just keep asking them to slow down.

3. Speak slow and clear

When speaking on the phone silence can be a bit scary, and you may feel that you need to reply immediately. Take your time and think about exactly what you want to say. It is better to speak slowly and concise with good pronunciation and make sure they can easily understand.

It is also very helpful to plan out exactly what you need to accomplish before you make the phone call. Even to the point of planning out the phrases you want say. The more your prepare the better things will go.

Give it a try

If the opportunity presents itself, give it a try. The more you do it the easier it gets.

When I was working in Tokyo as an admissions counselor, I occasionally had to speak to parents who only spoke Japanese.  At first I was a bit intimidated and asked my co-workers to make the calls for me. Eventually though, I decided that I would only get better if I did it myself. What I found, was that it was not nearly as difficult as I thought.

Learn Japanese Through Anime and Manga

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If you are learning Japanese there is a good chance that you are into anime or manga. At least this seemed to be the case when I studied in Japan, and also when I worked as an admissions counselor at a Japanese University. The great thing is that Japanese anime and manga can be used to supplement your Japanese studies. And thanks to the Japan foundation, there is a free source. anime-manga.jp

It looks like the site is still in the works, but already has an expressions module, which includes the expressions, the grammar, and pronunciation.

There is also a word quiz module with a beginner, intermediate, advanced, and phrase section. If each section contains it’s own words then there are a total of 1,700 Japanese words to study altogether, plus a number of Japanese phrases.

It looks like they will also be adding an expressions by scene module and a kanji module in the near future. So as long as they keep ading to the site, this will become a great tool for you to study Japanese.

Check it out and don’t forget to leave a comment here with your impressions of the site.


Learning Japanese From Video Games?

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With region codes being removed from a lot of the games and game systems, it has become easier than ever to get copies of Japanese games. The big question however, is do games make good tools for practicing Japanese?

In the past I would have generally said “not really”. Not for me at least. If you have subtitles enabled you can get practice reading kanji, but since I was in a rush to actually play the game, I generally tend to skip most of it. Most games also have voice overs, but similar to anime, the acting is very far from actual speaking. I am sorry to disappoint, but people just don’t talk like that in real life.

So in the past I would have said that video games might possibly make average Japanese study tools (if you are diligent enough to sit through all the text and cut scenes).

Using games to speak to native Japanese speakers

However, there is one aspect of gaming that I think can help you practice your Japanese, online gaming.

Now I will admit I don’t really do online gaming. I just don’t play enough to try and play online. However, at the end of last year, Modern Warfare 2 came out. My brother liked it so much he sent me a copy, along with a mic, and told me I had to get online with him and play.

Eventually, I started playing online when my brother wasn’t playing. It may because I am located in Japan, but many of the people I end up playing with are also located in Japan.

To be honest, I am not really interested in talking when I play a game. I set the headset aside so I don’t have to listen and can just enjoy the game.

However, for someone who is interested in practicing Japanese, it seems like it would be a great chance. While you aren’t going to have deep conversations, you will at least get to practice some common Japanese greetings and basic commands for helping each other out in the game. You might even be able to make a few friends a long the way.

Proper etiquette

Of course you have to be a little careful on how you approach this. Don’t just start trying to talk to anyone and everyone that is Japanese and has a mic. Remember that everyone is there to play a game, not teach a Japanese lesson.

The following tips should help you practice Japanese and meet some new people without becoming an annoyance.

  • Try to keep the conversation focused on the game.
  • If they seem hesitant to speak with you don’t try to hard.
  • Refrain from asking too personal of questions. Unless they ask you first. (Remember other people can hear)
  • If you want to add them as a friend, ask them first. They will be more likely to accept.
  • Only talk when necessary. Remember everyone is there to play game.
  • If you do get a good conversation going, remember to show interest in them (don’t get lost in learning Japanese).

In the end, I think that online gaming communities can be a unique place to practice Japanese. You know you have some similar interests, the conversation topic is already chosen, and if you end up on the same team, you have a great reason to communicate.

Give it a try and let me know what you think. If you have already tried it please leave a comment and let me know how it went.

P.S. I am looking for a new PS3 controller. Any recommendations?

Kanjilish- Learn Japanese and Kanji While Reading English

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In the last few years there have been quite a few tools coming out to help students learn Japanese. One of my favorites is Rikaichan. Rikaichan is an add-on for Firefox that will give you the readings and definitions for Japanese characters when you mouse over them. It is a great tool for anyone learning Japanese or for someone who wants to read a Japanese website.

But what about a way to learn Japanese when you are reading websites in English? That’s where Kanjilish comes in. It is another add-on for Firefox that, when active, changes the first letter of English words into the equivalent Japanese Kanji. For example, the word “new” will become “新ew”.

Now to be honest I wasn’t really thrilled with this idea. I felt it is better to learn Japanese by studying Japanese. However, after a recommendation from @zirchi  on twitter, I gave it a try. It turns out it is a great way to review the meanings of Kanji and a great companion to Remember the Kanji.

Kanjilish gives you options of which word meanings you would like to choose based on a few popular systems, Kanji in Context, Remembering the Kanji, KanjiDic, and remembering Traditional Hanzi.

The only bad thing I have to say about it, is that it does require slightly longer for pages to load. Not ridiculously long, but longer.

Give it a try and let me know what you think. Combined with Remembering the Kanji and Rikaichan, I think it’s a pretty good tool for learning Japanese.


Rikaikun (Rikaichan for Chrome)

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I have written about Rikaichan before and how it is one of my favorite tools for reading and learning Japanese. It allows even a someone with a basic understanding of Japanese to read like a pro. Well, for all those who use Google’s chrome, a port has been made called Rikaikun.

Since the current release of Chrome doesn’t handle plugins you will need to install the beta. It will ask you to do this if you try and install the plugin.  Give it a try and let me know what you think. I’ve got it downloaded and it seems to work just fine. In fact it was easier than Rikaichan because all I needed to do was one click.

Rikaikun Plugin

Reading Japanese Words in Style

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close up on keys of old  typewriter

So you finally figured out how to read and write Japanese on your computer (if you haven’t, do this right away). The problem is that the standard fonts for Japanese aren’t very good. In addition to just being plane bad looking or difficult to read, there may occasionally be characters that don’t show up. Since you will see Japanese words written in all different kinds of fonts and handwriting, it is also a good idea to get used to lots of different ones. But don’t worry. This post is all about choosing a new font.

Michele Romanini (the same person who turned the 1000+ common Japanese words into an SRS list) has found a great list of fonts that can be downloaded. Since there are quite a few different kinds of fonts, you should be able to find something to your liking.

Installing fonts will vary depending on the OS you are using, but there is a a lot of documentation on the web. Simple type “installing fonts in (name of your OS)”.

You can find the Japanese Fonts at the link below

Japanese Fonts

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