No I Do, Yes, I Don’t
No I Do, Yes, I Don’t
Polar opposites they are, Japanese and English.
Concepts are structurally embedded into language and dictates the speakers behaviour, process, and form.
One of the most interesting things about the Japanese is the necessity to be in harmony and tactical agreement among the participants of a conversation.
One must read the “air”, as well as interpreting what is being spoken, the tone and texture of the words, and the unique situation concerning the members of the conversation.
This can be extremely confusing for the uninitiated, and indeed annoys native English speakers, especially Americans, as they often frank and direct (obnoxious and pushy), frequently to the detriment of their objective.
Fundamentally, Japanese will never openly disagree or say no directly.
Nor will they reject an offer outright.
The answer is more often than not, ambiguous.
One was often amused when inviting people to come hear some music, they will say “ikketera iku”, “if I can make it I will,” which 99% of the time means “Can’t make it.”
Why not simply say, “can’t make it” instead of this ambivalent phrase.
Here in lies soul and spirit of the Japanese language.
In Japanese, it is believed that words have a soul of their own.
This is known as the “spirit of words” or “kotodama”.
Indeed this Japanese is an elegant phrase to keep in mind and to keep one’s own words in check.
Kotodama, is of paramount importance to keep the grease on the rails of the Japanese society, and indeed this speeding train on the right track.
One must continually interpret the essence of the conversation all the while reading the “air” for this is where kotodama resides.
Being ignorant of kotodama, and the importance of reading the air, will always leave one at a distinct disadvantage when interacting with the Japanese, if unaware of this element of communication.
So, how can one be more in tune to the unspoken conventions of our society.
Learning the Japanese Cultural Code Words is a very good start.
With a heart full of gratitude, one has created a series of podcasts explaining some important Japanese Cultural Code Words.
One can gain a deeper understanding into the Japanese society and how the all important kotodama remains a critical element of communication in the hierarchical society of Japan.