I have been running the website Japanese Talk Online for the last 2+ years to help people learn Japanese. For people to enjoy it as much as I do.
I originally wrote this article on Japanese Talk Online to help those interested in studying Japanese to improve their relations with Japanese clients.
More foreigners are doing business with Japan than ever before. Whether this is interaction with Japanese clients, working directly for a Japanese company, or working as an assistant language teacher in Japan, more and more people are getting involved with Japan. So language is becoming more and more important.
You might not need to learn Japanese for work, but if you’re interacting with Japanese people it’s a good opportunity to learn if you want to. I think wanting to makes a huge impact to studying because it can be something enjoyable, a hobby if you will, rather than a chore.
Many resources for learning business Japanese are written for beginners while assuming you’re also at an advanced level. In other words they will come with phrases written in romaji (the roman alphabet), while also giving you long complicated phrases and conversations to learn. That isn’t useful for beginners no matter what your age or experience is.
This article I’m dividing into two because there is just so much to touch upon! This first one is for professionals wanting to learn business Japanese as beginners, for those who know nothing or very little about the Japanese language. This article covers:
- Learning the alphabets.
- Learning phrases to use in Japan.
- Learn basic grammar and vocabulary
Complete Beginner Business Japanese
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, learn hiragana and katana. These are the basic alphabets in Japanese. They’re phonetic, so once you know how to read/write them you’ll know how to pronounce Japanese words. This is particularly useful when you visit Japan as they will allow you to be able to read a lot of menu’s in Japanese.
Learning them will also make it easier to learn Japanese in the long run as more resources (especially for business Japanese) are written using these.
Ways to learn hiragana / katakana:
- Japanese for Busy People Kana Workbook – Cheap (£8), teaches you vocabulary as well, and comes with CD.
- Memrise JTalkOnline “Learn Hiragana Using Vocabulary“ – Free flashcard program for PC and app, teaches vocabulary and has audio.
Learn The Basics for Being in Japan
Before you even start focusing on the big Japanese for work, it’s important to learn the basics. At least the following specific areas of Japanese for when you’re in Japan. These are essential for both people visiting on business trips and for people living in Japan for work.
- Meeting people for the first time: There are a million websites that go over first introductions and business card exchange for business. A few ones to read though are Japanese Business Meeting Etiquette and Survival Japanese – self introduction.
- Restaurant Japanese: You are almost certainly going to eat in restaurants, and although you may have a Japanese person with you it’s still worth learning how to order for yourself. Restaurant Japanese covers useful phrases and vocabulary to help you in restaurants; Restaurants in Japan covers the different types of restaurants you will come across in Japan.
Other Posts You Might Find Useful:
- A Simple Way to Start Speaking Japanese
- Asking For Directions in Japan
- Understanding Shop Japanese
- Japanese Signs
- Essential Japanese for Visiting Japan & Essential Japanese for Visiting Japan Memrise
How to Study These:
This may seem like a lot at first but it helps to take things one step at a time. Learn the basic vocabulary by using websites like Memrise and other Apps, as well as writing down vocabulary and phrases and drilling them, try and say them out loud (which is why learning hiragana and katakana is useful).
The J-Talk Memrise page has a course for Essential Japanese for Visiting Japan which covers first meeting someone, daily greetings, shops, restaurants, signs, being sick etc.
Learn Basic Grammar and Vocabulary
So you’ve learnt hiragana and katakana, some basic vocabulary and phrases for being in Japan. Now it’s time to focus your study.
Start by learning basic grammar. A good foundation in grammar will help you form your own sentences, not just parrot phrases.
You can do this through exercise books such as Try! JLPT Grammar, online resources such as Tea Kim’s Guide to Japanese Grammar and Maggie Sensei, apps such as Memrise (Beginners Grammar I & Beginners Grammar II).
Often these resources will teach you the meanings and uses, but the best way to learn them it to write them down and use them. You might come across some of them as you work, but it helps to find a native person to practice with either through websites like Lang-8 or italki.
As you learn basic grammar learn basic vocabulary, but learn vocabulary that will be useful to you. Vocabulary that might have come up through learning key phrases such as food and drinks, locations, directions, transport etc, will all be invaluable doing business in Japan. The more vocabulary you learn the more you can change those phrases and utilise basic grammar to fit your needs.
Learning Business Japanese as a Beginner II
- Learn the basics
- Focus on reading and typing Japanese
- Focus on speaking and understanding spoken Japanese
Another article you might find useful for work is Dealing with Long Flights and Jet-lag