JIN-376 -- English-language Zealots

The J@pan Inc. Newsletter

Commentary on the Week's Business, Technology and Cultural News
Issue No. 376
Wednesday July 19, 2006 TOKYO

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@@ VIEWPOINT: English-language Zealots

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DATE July 20
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Topic: The Future of Software
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DATE July 26
Topic Unlimited beer, wine, soft drinks
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NetTokyo 2 - Summer 2006

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Date: Sat. July 22 2006
Time: 1.30 pm - 5:30pm
Venue: Shunju, Sanno Park Tower 27F
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Dress code: Casual
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@@ VIEWPOINT: English-language Zealots

One day, as I was about to get on my bicycle in front of the Central Library
in Yokohama, a complete stranger in his thirties buttonholed me. How does
the expression “You can't place a price on love” differ from “You can’t buy me
love?” he asked. I explained the difference. Thereupon he asked if one
expression was British English and the other American English. No, I replied.

I’m sometimes asked such questions by Japanese. At least the guy outside
the library was neutral. Many Japanese seem to think British English is
superior. For example, an executive at a major diamond company insists
on the spelling “jewellery" in PR materials since this is "the King's English."
(How Charles must wish it were so!) I also recall having used "died" in
a document, and being asked by the Japanese client to use "passed
away" instead. The request came with the explanation "pass away" is more
polite and with the remark the writer (me) must be American.

More recently, after conferring with a staff member at the Central Library,
a middle-aged man who had been listening to our conversation suddenly
remarked to me in English that I spoke nearly flawless Japanese. After paying
me this dubious compliment, he mentioned that he'd seen "The China
Syndrome" and was looking for the book. The library staff could only find the
movie pamphlet. I unwittingly muddied the waters by suggesting they search
under Michael Crichton. The non-existent book not turning up, he asked me
how he might improve his English. Since we were in a library, where silence
rules, he signaled I should follow and disappeared from view. I found him in the
stairwell, where he began pulling books from a briefcase as he recounted
his life story. He had been a banker and now wanted to become a journalist
writing in English on economic matters. I believed him. One of the books
he showed me was a dense English-language tome on financial markets.
What advice could I give him?

These aficianados of English are not necessarily bookish types that hang
out at libraries. Last week I was about to park my bicycle in the usual spot
when I noticed an elderly gentleman trimming the hedgrerow around the
building where I have my office. I asked if my bike would be in the way. He
said no, and we fell to talking. He said he was studying for the
notoriously difficult tour guide license examination. He added that a
friend had asked him to help with translating into English a long technical
document on the manufacture of clothing. Would he mind if he called on
me when he had questions about English?

The Japanese have a reputation for being polite, reserved, and shy toward
foreigners. Leastwise this is not true of Japan's perfervid students of English.
I sense a business opportunity. I could attach to my bicycle a banner
advertising lessons, tips, and on-the-spot answers, and cruise for
English-language zealots like a taxi for fares. I would be sure to fly the Union
Jack rather than the Stars and Stripes.

-- Burritt Sabin
Why Choose the So-Fast Corporation?

Failed logistics is a frequent reason why foreign import/retail companies
in Japan eventually pull out. In the start-up phase, management is focused on
just getting the business up and running, and so it is tempting to abdicate
the logistics to a large trading or transportation firm. But the reality is
that the convenience is soon replaced by frustration -- as any change request,
any problem resolution takes forever and becomes "too hard to do".

Now, So-Fast Corporation offers its "Start Logistics Package" which includes:
1. A reasonable and set price,
2. Simple distribution, and
3. Quick, customer-oriented service to satisfy end-customers.

One customer that did switch is Guthy-Renker, featured alongside So-Fast in
the Spring 2005 issue of J@pan Inc, www.japaninc.com/article.php?articleID=1429.

Guthy-Renker is one of Japan's largest TV marketing companies.
If logistics are a key part of your success in Japan - get connected with So-Fast.

Email: info@so-fast.co.jp


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