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Photo by Su San Lee on Unsplash

Second language proficiency is not a binary switch, it is a wide spectrum. Using English to communicate is not easy in Japan even with people who “know” English. To understand one’s behavior, we must look into his history. To understand how people from another country use English, we must look into how they have learned English.

This article is very specific to Japan, where my personal experience (with English as my second language, and Japanese third) happened. But it also works as an example to showcase what factors are involved in fostering effective communication in a non-common language, which is very important for people who work with people from different countries or just simply want to understand another country more through communication with locals. …


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Sam is a capable team leader. He is well organized, maybe the most organized team leader in the central technology department. As a leader he is also very serious about task scheduling and making sure progress is on track.

One day a problem emerged, a foundation problem that influences all other teams in the department. It was Sam’s team’s specialty but everyone on his team has a fully packed schedule, no one has extra time for it. So Sam replied, “We have not enough people for the task”. He delivered the message to the upper management and they also agreed. …


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Image from ANA’s “Is Japan Cool?” project

Sho-ku-nin more or less means artisan or craftsman. In recent years, this Japanese vocabulary is given more context in places outside Japan. People have been using it to describe a certain perspective on craftsmanship and even a way of living. In Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a documentary published in 2013, the renowned (now 94-year-old) sushi chef Jiro Ono present to the audience how he lives a life of sho-ku-nin.

“Even at my age, after decades of work, I don’t think I have achieved perfection. But I feel ecstatic all day — I love making sushi. That’s the spirit of the sho-ku-nin.”, …


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In recent years, Japanese companies have increasingly hired more and more foreigners. The government has also alleviated the hurdle for foreigners to obtain permanent residence. Gradually, foreigners are not just a good-to-have supplement, we are playing a bigger role in workplace. Except from contributing our hard skills, many of us also find our soft skills and the different working style useful.

In my last article — Working in Japan: Why are We Bad Followers, I looked into the several differences, managerial or teamwork related, in work culture that are harmful to achieving team goals. …


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This article does not necessarily represent the situation in ALL Japanese companies. (But to a certain extent it does)

At work, we tend to complain a lot about how bad a leader is, no matter a small team leader or an executive much higher up in the rank. There is always something wrong about the leader. So leaders are bad, but have we asked ourselves are we bad followers?

In here, I define bad followers as team players that are not generating positive impact to the team in achieving the obvious goal, even wasting effort and time that could have been saved. However, it is not uncommon that the most obvious goal might not be the ultimate goal. Most of the time it is the product. But it can also be team harmony, personal growth, self satisfaction and others. …

About

Norris Chiu

gamedev / management / culture

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