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Business Japanese in the real world

Business Japanese in the real world

Business Japanese in the real world

At what level do people need to acquire business Japanese in order to gain trust in Japan?

N1, N2, N3

The JLPT, or Japanese Language Proficiency Test, is a test that tests reading and listening skills. Here’s what the official website says about the N1:


・One is able to read writings with logical complexity and/or abstract writings on a variety of topics, such as newspaper editorials and critiques, and comprehend both their structures and contents. • ・One is also able to read written materials with profound contents on various topics and follow their narratives as well as understand the intent of the writers comprehensively.



One is able to comprehend orally presented materials such as coherent conversations, news reports, and lectures, spoken at natural speed in a broad variety of settings, and is able to follow their ideas and comprehend their contents comprehensively. One is also able to understand the details of the presented materials such as the relationships among the people involved, the logical structures, and the essential points.


It seems very competitive, but in the real world, things are more complicated. It also doesn’t include speaking skills. It is a very easy to understand indicator of what level someone is at. By the way, no offence to anyone who wants to get this certificate because Japanese companies demand it. It’s a very logical way to look at someone’s linguistic skills objectively. What we mean is that these tests are made by humans, whereas in the real world, almost everything is improvised.

So, that is the JLPT certificate.

japanese business card exchange

Actual business Japanese speaking skill validation

As I’ve communicated with non-native Japanese speakers in Japanese for decades, this is the speaking levels.

S Level: Just like a native

A Level: Non-native, but communicate perfectly (just a matter of minor grammatical points and nuances)

B Level: Be able to communicate but listener needs to think for a while to comprehend

C Level: Need to rephrase to comprehend by listener

D Level: Only articulate words

speaking business japanese

The ideal Japanese business standard is A or above. The debatable level is B, which most of the time relies on the listener’s capacity to embrace the process of thinking to understand. In cases of urgent or substantial circumstances, listeners might not embrace them. By the same token, if the topic is very normal day-to-day field, listeners do not mind taking time to get the meanings. It’s not a couple of minutes; it’s a couple of seconds.

Are people really thinking about those seconds while communicating? Yes, they do because we do. Logically speaking, let’s say that one short sentence takes 5 seconds to articulate and every 5 seconds, you need to think through it for one or two seconds to understand. If you talk to that person for 30 minutes, it takes roughly 720 seconds just to understand the meaning, while you think about what to say next.

Some think “that’s not a big deal”; some think “that is”. What’s the difference between those of who can embrace and try to understand patiently and those of who simply can’t? That leads to the next part.

Low adaptability at Japanese companies

There are basically two types of people. One is being very kind, understanding whoever the person is speaking her/his non-native tongue, and respecting that the person is making an effort to acquire different language skills. If you could find this type of person, lucky you. It’s not that hard to find, but chances are 50% of the time it will be. The other kind is just the opposite. Very impatient, cutting to the chase, looking down because he or she might think that inability language communication is taking their time. The good news is, some do really care about language skills only if you have exceptional business skills that offset the language part.

Japan, as a country, has very little international experience. Meaning that many haven’t learned a new language or culture. Learning a language is a tough process, and understanding culture takes time and effort plus support from the people around you. It takes months or years of learning to reach the good level. With no learning experience, it is highly likely that a person lacks empathy towards them.

IMD World Talent Ranking 2021 illustrates well the readiness of Japanese talent for the international business environment. Frankly, that’s quite low.


There are lots of opinions about business Japanese communication competency. With above inforamtion, you can properly validate someone’s Japanese language capability in a batter way.