Attitude barrier

Technically speaking, I am a professional Japanese-English translator/interpreter.  But English is still difficult for me though I have used English for more than 10 years.  Having said that, what troubles me when I interpret between Canadians and Japanese is not language but attitude.  It’s attitude barrier.

I was born and raised in Japan, but since when I was a little kid, I’ve had difficulties in communicating with typical Japanese.  When they tell something to other people, they hide important points between the lines.  Canadians do it in some degree, but typical Japanese do it in much higher degree.  So, when they listen to other people, they always try to read between the lines.  It’s like coding and decoding.  For some reasons, I cannot code and decode in their way.  When I speak frankly, they assume I imply something. If I say, “no, I’m not implying anything”, they assume I imply something by saying it.  As I wrote in a previous post, in Japan, it is important to show your efforts.  When someone asks other people to do something that they cannot afford to do, they do not say “I cannot do it” but make tremendous efforts to do it, which makes other people feel bad. So, they try to avoid asking other people to do something whether it is demanding for them or not.  If someone says “I can do it”, typical Japanese assume the person implies that he/she cannot afford to do it but will make tremendous efforts to do it because he/she was asked to do so.  If they want someone to do something, they do not tell it to the person but expect him/her to read their mind.  If the person do not do it, they complain about the person behind his/her back.  All those things happen in the current work place, and it often causes problems between Canadians and Japanese.  I’ve tried to explain it to my Japanese coworkers, but they never understand it.

A good thing is that now my Canadian colleagues understand me.  When I lived in Japan and had problems caused by the attitude barrier, those Japanese told me “you are wrong”.  Now I know I was not wrong.

February 8, 2013Permalink