Wednesday, 13 March 2013

言葉は文化 – Language is culture

例えば...あなたがビジネスで日本語が流暢にでき る外国人に初めて会うとします。あなたが名刺を 差し出して名字で名乗ります。続いてその方も同 じく名字で名乗ります。 以降その方を何と呼びますか。先日、とある翻訳 MLではこれが話題でした。ほとんどの外国人メ ンバーの経験では、日本人に名字で呼ばれた事が結構少なく、中には名前で呼び捨てされた方もいまし た。我々は日本文化に合わせて日本語で会話しているのに、なぜ日本人は外国人を名字ではなく名前で呼ぶのか...? これがもし日本人同士なら...非常識だと思っ てしまいませんか?ビジネスするなら、お互い同等の立場で気持ちよくスタート する方がいいでのはないでしょうか。

For example, you – a Japanese businessperson – meet a foreigner who speaks fluent Japanese at a business meeting. You give him your business card, introducing yourself with your surname. He does the same. How do you thereafter refer to that foreigner? This was a recent thread on a translation mailing list. Few non-Japanese members said they were called by their surnames. Some even said they were called by their first names without the honorific suffix, -san. Everyone is speaking Japanese in line with the Japanese cultural norms, but why do few Japanese not call non-Japanese counterparts by their surname? If this happened among Japanese businesspeople, everyone would think you lack commonsense, no? You are looking to work in business together, so why not start off on even footing?

The Japanese version first appeared in the November 2012 issue of the goodspeed monthly newsletter.


  1. Wouldn't it be because the Japanese wants so much to appear international and cosmopolitan and Americanized and cool? At least that's the way it used to be. But then, I always put my first name first in English & Japanese on my 名刺 so I could always be キャサリン先生......

  2. Good point about wanting to look cool. But cool doesn't get you a business deal.