‘Easy Japanese’ as a common language with foreigners in Japan

I could not agree more with the idea of ‘easy Japanese’ as a common language between native and non-native speakers in Japan. In Tokyo, the Mainichi Newspapers Co. will host a symposium on this topic in March.

The focus will be the acceptance of foreign workers and language in the context of Japan’s employment situation and problems including a labour shortage. I am very much interested in the language part, and ‘easy Japanese’ is something I have been thinking about a lot, as a very important aspect.

This isn’t just about Japanese. For English, French, Spanish, German, Mandarin, how often have you thought about the ‘easy use’ of expressions between native and non-native speakers within the countries? – especially, if you live far away from home.

One of the British students in my Japanese class often told me that “Japanese people tend not to change the use, style, even speed of speaking towards people from other countries. If they did, it would be a great help for me to understand what they say and what I need to do.”

I said the same thing to him about local people in the UK – assuming that people might not have much experience of conversation with people from non-English speaking countries.

In at least a few situations, such as services in a health institution, post office, and council office, if the providers – and between the providers – were more aware of the ‘easy use’ of their language, I would appreciate how much it helps us people from other cultures.

For example:

  • use clear language in assimilable chunks
  • use signposting
  • demonstrate non-verbal behaviours
  • check the person’s understanding

etc.

The tricky part is that you cannot treat an adult like a child, and there is a need to be respectful…

It’s a shame that I cannot attend the symposium in March, but I would really like to encourage people in Japan to become aware of the idea and further implement it in some crucial settings. 🙂