5 Useful Business Japanese Phrases You Must Know (with Hiragana and Katakana Scripts)
So you’ve aced the interview for the internship or transfer to the Japan branch office. Or you have an upcoming business meeting with your Japanese work associates.
Japan has precise and sophisticated hierarchical systems, complete with a special language of politeness called honorific language, keigo in Japanese.
Keigo speech patterns are determined by the relative status of the speaker, the listener and the persons spoken about.
In contrast, American English is built on the values of fairness and social equality. It has no specific speech patterns for communicating between hierarchical levels.
Here’s how not to appear like a clueless gaijin in front of your Japanese colleagues. Learn the basic keigo you’d encounter or use daily so you avoid any faux pas. If you master these, you are golden.
Before we proceed further, do note that keigo is used much more often in Japanese business settings than it is in everyday life.
Some Common Japanese Keigo (Honorific Language) Expressions Used in Business (with hiragana and katakana scripts)
- itsumo osewa ni natte orimasu
This is an important and useful business greeting which means:
- ”Thank you for your patronage,”
- “Thank you for your support,” or
- “Thank you for your work.”
This phrase can also be used in internal email correspondence within companies. It is used both from subordinate to superior and vice versa.
- yoroshiku onegai itashimasu
From a subordinate to a superior it means “Thank you very much” or “I am looking forward to working with you.”
From a superior to a subordinate it means “Thanks in advance for your cooperation.”
You can’t go wrong with this one.
- … to m?shimasu
This literally means “I am called…”. A closer translation would be “My name is ….”. This way of introducing yourself is honorific and highly formal.
It is used when introducing oneself in the business context and can be used to impress when attending meetings, especially as a gaijin.
- … wa irasshaimasu ka?
This phrase is used on the phone to ask “Is … there?”
Note that this is a very respectful form to talk to/about someone of higher status than you. In other words, you would not use this phrase to ask to speak to a friend or family member on the phone.
- chotto omachi kudasai
This is another phrase used on the phone. It means “One moment, please.” If someone calls asking for your colleague, be it your boss or subordinate, you use this phrase to show respect to the caller.
By the way, the default assumption is that the caller is a customer or business partner, and thus of higher status than you.
Don’t put your foot in your mouth, use the honorific language and get yourself out of awkward situations at work. If you master these 5 phrases, you are off to a good start. Good luck, ganbatte!
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