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Japanese conversation style
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Posted 10/2/08
This is an essay by Nancy Sakamoto about the differences between Western and Japanese conversation styles.
http://www.dvgups.ru/METDOC/CGU/INOSTR/ANGL/METOD/ANGL_KULT/Kult_5.htm

For those too lazy to read the article, it basically says Western conversations are like tennis, one person says something (serves), the other runs to the ball and returns it (counter idea) and then the server runs and returns the ball from that position (counter counter idea). And it goes back and forth like so.
Japanese conversations are like bowling, everybody waits their turn, and throws balls on parallel lanes and then tabulate score, then a new round starts.

I found it a very interesting article, when I thought about it, a lot of anime (yes I know anime does not perfectly represent Japanese culture, but it is written by Japanese people who would carry this 'cultural baggage') has characters who don't really address another characters point, but rather makes a similar one along side it. It also made me think of whenever something shocking happens all the characters chime in one after another ('What?' 'No!' 'How could you!' 'Oh no!' 'Whatwhatwhat!?!')
My problem with the article is it suggests that Japanese people don't really disagree or argue, or at least, not in a way I am familiar with. I also think in Western conversations (especially with large groups) you get "bowling".

Thoughts? Comments? Any examples where you have found this to be true?
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Posted 10/2/08
yup i have one... in tokyo Drift.....

remember that fight at the roof top of the school...
the way that the western guy settles the fight when he gave his own i-pod just to stop the fight...
and then when the jap guy receives the i-pod he do some spittng inside his hands.. just like saying in engilsh that your a chicken... a coward... (that is what i've observed based on the actions and events)
and then lil bow wow said : you suck man!!!!! why did you do that!? that doesn't settle everything...
the things in here are settle in other way, you shit man!!!

that's man basis or point of view (maybe it's right nor wrong... just a guess)
thanks for you thread... the forums has now a meaningful thread!!!!!!
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Posted 10/2/08 , edited 10/2/08

macambric66 wrote:

yup i have one... in tokyo Drift.....

remember that fight at the roof top of the school...
the way that the western guy settles the fight when he gave his own i-pod just to stop the fight...
and then when the jap guy receives the i-pod he do some spittng inside his hands.. just like saying in engilsh that your a chicken... a coward... (that is what i've observed based on the actions and events)
and then lil bow wow said : you suck man!!!!! why did you do that!? that doesn't settle everything...
the things in here are settle in other way, you shit man!!!

that's man basis or point of view (maybe it's right nor wrong... just a guess)
thanks for you thread... the forums has now a meaningful thread!!!!!!


Thanks, that's an interesting example
Far too many threads out there are just "opinion" threads that allow no discourse.
Maybe crunchyroll is full of Asians who "bowl" in threads, and that's why there is so little "discussion" just everybody chimes in with their favorite show.
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Posted 10/2/08
i liked that that was very interesting
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Posted 10/2/08
I read the article, and now that I think about it, it's true. Without me realizing it until now.
I agree with the essay's idea and it quite taught me on such basis.

Everything is a game, huh? It's cool.
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Posted 10/2/08

FlavorAmazing wrote:


In the following reading, Nancy Masterson Sakamoto explains the difference between Japanese and American conversational styles. Born in the United States, Sakamoto has lived and taught English in Japan. She is currently professor of American
For those too lazy to read the article, it basically says Western conversations are like tennis, one person says something (serves), the other runs to the ball and returns it (counter idea) and then the server runs and returns the ball from that position (counter counter idea). And it goes back and forth like so.
Japanese conversations are like bowling, everybody waits their turn, and throws balls on parallel lanes and then tabulate score, then a new round starts.

I found it a very interesting article, when I thought about it, a lot of anime (yes I know anime does not perfectly represent Japanese culture, but it is written by Japanese people who would carry this 'cultural baggage') has characters who don't really address another characters point, but rather makes a similar one along side it. It also made me think of whenever something shocking happens all the characters chime in one after another ('What?' 'No!' 'How could you!' 'Oh no!' 'Whatwhatwhat!?!')
My problem with the article is it suggests that Japanese people don't really disagree or argue, or at least, not in a way I am familiar with. I also think in Western conversations (especially with large groups) you get "bowling".

Thoughts? Comments? Any examples where you have found this to be true?


I actually have heard of that article before and think it is an interesting way to view conversation dynamics.

From my own experiences I see how that happens. Being a native English speaker studying Japanese I would very much agree that in the idea of having "sucessful conversation" in English is like tennis where you'd want to reply to someone using the cues of what they mention and then reply thus "returning the ball". Yet, there are also times in big groups (in western culture) that people just kind of agree with what other people say, but I guess the article is trying to say this is more of a exception instead of the rule unlike with in Japanese conversation.

Also reading this article made me think of the anime Lucky Star. I've just finished it, but I remember when I first was looking for episodes I saw some subbed and some dubbed. I ended up prefering looking at the subbed episodes (although I ususally do by default) in a sense because the dub "sounded odd". It wasn't that the voices sounded bad, but the way in which they were speaking (for example the long pauses, the "ahh...is that so...umm let's see") just sounded out of place for what I'm used to hearing in "english speech" (although of course one can argue what an idea of normal "english speech" is). Hearing the same conversation in Japanese in the subbed version there wasn't this problem because I'm used to hearing Japanese spoken with those dynamics.

While I can't fully say whether Japanese speech dynamics are completely bowling-like, but I do agree with the tennis idea in English speech (as a general rule although everyone may not follow it) and for that being a possible reason behind difficulties in cross-culture communication even if one is "coherent" in the other language.

I know my response was a bit long, but this is such an interesting topic. Thanks for making a forum on it (and yes finally something with some meaning)!!

P.S. I love, in the article, the imagery of conversation as volleyball and everyone just watches the ball fall to the ground instead of trying to hit it over to the other side.
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inside your head
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Posted 10/2/08
you think too much....
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Posted 10/2/08

jeromemmzz wrote:

you think too much....

Are you sure you aren't thinking too little?
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Posted 10/2/08

FlavorAmazing wrote:


jeromemmzz wrote:

you think too much....

Are you sure you aren't thinking too little?



so? your point is...?
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Posted 10/2/08
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Posted 10/2/08
hmm...i would say that in general the article is accurate. however, it depends more on a person's individual personality, not their culture. for example, there are shy american people, and there are outgoing japanese people.
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Posted 10/2/08
ahahah!
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Posted 10/3/08 , edited 10/3/08
Another example... "OP" or out of place...
if you don't know the rules and culture.. your are an OP or in other words.. OUTCAST...
Eat this!!!!!

(spanks the word "OP" on somebody)

just like when your a rich person and you only eat extravagant foods... you don't know the other side(Just like here in philippines... for example fishballs or when you're a alien or immigrant you can say side vendors(food version) of the food chain...
(but here in philippines.. even the rich personalities(means of persons) eats side vending food..
but don't think about the repacked food like in japan and us that is in the vending machine... they are not the same as you think....



here a pic of a fishball vendor...



BUT MAN THIS FOOD TASTE GREAT
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Posted 10/3/08

macambric66 wrote:

Another example... "OP" or out of place...
if you don't know the rules and culture.. your are an OP or in other words.. OUTCAST...
Eat this!!!!!

BUT MAN THIS FOOD TASTE GREAT


Well of course, the question is, how do you become an insider, or at least, how do you gain the insider perspective. The article made me think of all sorts of cues that I missed because I'm used to a different style of conversation. Maybe somebody like Haruhi is exceptionally rude for interrupting people, but from my outsider perspective she's just opinionated or something. I'm sure I'm missing out on all kinds of cultural cues and subtle messages.
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Posted 10/22/08
I've befriended some Japanese and at first I found them a bit reserved. They are very cautious and conscious of their behavior and speech that I felt awkward.It was only until such a time that we have a closer bond that they tend to take initiative. Somehow I can imagine the teenagers acting rowdy and all that. But their culture is much to blame about their behavior. Oh well. I love anime! Hehe
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