The following are some practical steps that you can take to facilitate
communications at business meetings with Japanese customers or business
Most Japanese speak English with varying degrees of skill ranging
from fluency to just basic phrases. However, it is important to
remember that English is the second language of any Japanese person
with whom you will be communicating, and you should always make
allowances for this. Of course, the surest way to guarantee clear
communications is to hire a skilled interpreter. However, if an
interpreter is not available, or you don't have the budget to hire
one, the following are some simple and practical steps that you
can take to faciliate verbal communications: speak slowly, avoid
colloquialisms, use simple words and short sentences, use visual
aids when at all possible (if you don't have slides, use the whiteboard).
The same simple and practical steps as described above apply here,
too. Again, speak slowly, avoid colloquialisms, use simple words
and short sentences, and use visual aids. If possible, augment your
slides with Japanese translations under the English text (if you
don't do this for the full presentation, try to do it for the key
USE OF INTERPRETERS
A competent interpreter can certainly faciliate communications at
meetings and presentations.
Professional interpreters can be somewhat expensive, so make sure
you get your money's worth by asking the language service company
to arrange for you to be able to speak directly with the interpreter
that they will be assigning to you.
First, call the interpreter and make sure that they can communicate
with you effectively over the phone in English, also ask about their
experience in interpreting for meetings that covered subject material
such as you will be covering in your meeting or presentation. If
you're comfortable with the interpreter, make sure to send them
the materials you will be covering at the meeting or presentation
at least a few days in advance. This way, they can review the materials
and ask you for any necessary clarifications in advance. This may
cost you a little more, but it will insure that the interpreter
is fully prepared and that your meeting or presentation goes smoothly.
To get even more out of the interpreter,
brief them in advance about the key message(s) you want to convey
and your key goals and objectives for the meeting or presentation.
Have the interpreter clearly specify these at the beginning of the
meeting and reiterate them at the end. Also, after the meeting or
presentation, have the interpreter debrief you about any non-verbal
communications, or side conversations in Japanese, that reflected
your Japanese audience's attitude or conclusions towards your key
message(s) and key goals and objectives.