This made my ex-student weep in frustration.
Perhaps it does you too?
Way back in the day, when I was first in Japan and I was working at a conversation school. Mainly taught adults who used English in business.
My Student’s Email trauma
One of my students there worked at an international school. And he had to send emails quite regularly to other teachers living in the U.S.
It would take him more than hour to draft an email, he said.
He would have to plan the email. Write it. Get it checked. And it would take a long time to produce his email… which he would eventually send.
And to his utter dismay and frustration….
10 seconds later…
… a reply would come from his American counterparts.
And the whole process would start again.
It’s so frustrating!
“It’s so frustrating,” he said.
“It’s not fair! It takes me an hour to plan and send these emails and they just write and send it back in 30 seconds!
Why do I have to learn English as a second language? Why do I have to use English with them? They should learn and do it in Japanese!”
Life ain’t fair
Look – it’s not fair.
Life ain’t fair.
But it is balanced. We all have our own advantages and our own disadvantages. You’ve just got to make the best of them.
But more to the point
When I really looked into this person’s problem, it was very obvious the way he was writing emails actually wasn’t appropriate for what he was doing… and that was making him take FAR too long.
You see, the Japanese style of business email writing is quite involved and quite formal.
They start with a very formal greeting and then they flow into quite a large body of text. And to an extent, the longer the email, the more polite it is.
Not so in Western countries.
We want to get to the core of the important information, quick ‘n’ dirty.
We don’t care about all the fluff.
Just get to the bloody point, NOW, fast.
Culture First, English Second
You can’t just translate everything you do now into English and expect it to be appropriate. You need to really think about how people think. And how culturally appropriate what you do in English is.
If you’re not sure just how important this is, watch this video:
↑ this is a segment form a seminar I gave to a group in Tokyo.
You’ll learn something useful.
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