Thursday, September 29, 2011




  1. Coal, I had a rather different interpretation of the ad. Isn't the hairy foreigner basically saying "hey, don't worry about learning English. I will learn Japanese instead"?

    I thought the implication was that for most Japanese people, learning English is such an uphill battle that (unless they attend Berlitz) it's actually easier for the foreigner to learn Japanese?

    Note they aren't even implying this is a resident gaijin who's been slacking in his Japanese studying duties.. it could be a business traveler from overseas, for all we know.

  2. That was my initial assessment too, but then when you stop and think about it, in what universe would a foreign businessman (who possibly doesn't even live in Japan) choose to dedicate himself to the years of study necessary to efficiently conduct business meetings in Japanese, based on a single person's less than ideal grasp of English? The only way that makes any sense if it's being said sarcastically.

    Additional interpretations:

    1) Say the foreign businessman IS serious about learning the language and stands to do quite well at it, apparently your (the Japanese businessman's) vanity is more important than real communication – appeals to vanity in language learning rarely yields positive results. Why shouldn't he learn Japanese? Why is it so important that English be used? If him learning Japanese is NOT a perfectly suitable alternative to your speaking English better, then his decision to do so becomes moot.

    2) The foreign businessman sure seems inconvenienced (look at the picture), that thanks to YOU he has to learn a new language. Language schools should not be presenting language learning as a chore, or something that you or anybody else could or should be blamed for.

  3. I think it was probably being said sarcastically. I think the line is supposed to be humorous. But my humor detection is bad enough in English, much less Japanese, so don't quote me on that..

    On your point #1: I assume the guy was not meant to be serious about learning Japanese, except that he is exasperated that the Japanese guys can't speak English. It's not just as natural for the foreigner to learn Japanese. This is a global issue. Worldwide, if one of the two parties in a business meeting are English speakers, that's going to be the language of choice. That's why many people often refer to English as "the language of business". I don't think business people anywhere expect overseas business relationships to learn their non-English language, unless the foreign firm has a well established local presence.

    On your point #2, I agree completely. I think this is a terrible way to motivate people to study. But I do think they were trying to be funny.