Conversational Japanese vs Business Japanese: Which is Better?

Published July 7th, 2020

Just like any language, there are various areas to cover when one decides to pick it up. The Japanese language is huge. There are various tiers and each tier comes with special words and grammar that are applicable plus useful. A Japanese learner might find this intimidating and be more demoralized than motivated, but don’t be. Technically, there are multiples types of Japanese ranging from the most basic to the most complicated, the informal to the polite and formal. These can all generally be classified into two categories of Japanese — conversational Japanese and business Japanese. You can go either way and depending on which one you choose, they come with their own perks and benefits. Before starting to pick up the Japanese language, or even for those who have, it’s best to decide which direction to go for. Let’s take a look at these two categories and break them down to help with the decision making process.

The Basics of Conversational Japanese

Conversational Japanese is exactly what it sounds like — the kind of Japanese that you use in daily conversations and day-to-day interactions. This type of Japanese is more casual and often consists of less formal vocabulary, sentence structure, and grammar. Sometimes, the grammar and sentence structure is so flexible that there’s no right or wrong to them! Conversational Japanese is the one that’s most often heard in television shows, dramas, and movies. It’s no question that you’ll hear them being used when you walk past a group of people on the streets of Japan as well. This type of Japanese is used among friends and family as well as close and casual colleagues. Don’t worry if you’re not sure who to speak conversational Japanese with. The Japanese people are very understanding and appreciative of those who are learning the language and appreciate all sorts of efforts!

Why Learn Conversational Japanese?

The most obvious question is: why should you learn conversational Japanese? There are various reasons as to why. First and foremost, it is the easiest choice of the two. Conversational Japanese is usually just basic and lower-intermediate Japanese grammar and vocabulary. Once you’ve got the fundamentals of the language structure down, you’re as good as anyone at conversational Japanese! If there is a word mentioned by another person that you don’t understand, the explanation of the meaning is often always using simple words — so you’ll definitely be able to grasp it. Don’t get too caught up in grammar and sentence structure as well when it comes to conversational Japanese. In this type of Japanese, you can structure your sentences a few different ways to say the same thing and no one will penalize you on it! The second reason why you should learn conversational Japanese is because it’s what you’ll most often use in Japan. If you’re meeting a Japanese friend, it’s more natural to speak in conversational Japanese because it’s informal and more casual. The vocabulary words that you pick up in conversational Japanese will probably pop up again in the future, so it’s extremely useful. On top of it all, you’ll be able to watch a Japanese drama or movie and be able to follow most, if not all, of the conversation!

Who Should Learn Conversational Japanese?

If you’re wondering if conversational Japanese is suitable for you, think about why you’re learning the language. Are you learning Japanese because you want to be able to speak to other Japanese people casually and make more native friends? If your reason for picking up the language is similar to that, then conversational Japanese is perfect for you!

The Basics of Business Japanese

The other type of Japanese is business Japanese that uses keigo (敬語), which is the honorific Japanese speech. This type, as it suggests, is the kind where you would use in a business setting. Whether it is in the office, to your colleagues or seniors, or in a meeting, it’s undoubtedly more formal than conversational Japanese. Business Japanese consists of more complicated words and phrases, sentence structures and specific grammar to use in this kind of setting. You might even require to be familiar with more kanji (漢字), the Chinese characters and also one of the three writing systems in the Japanese language (whereas in conversational Japanese, you’ll be able to pass without requiring many kanji characters). As mentioned before, this type of Japanese is more formal than the other one. So you won’t hear it being used as often. Unless the Japanese drama or movie you’re watching is in a business or formal setting, you won’t be as exposed to it in those mediums.

Why Learn Business Japanese?

If it’s slightly more difficult and more substantial than conversational Japanese, why learn it then? Well, first of all, it’s extremely useful and important. In fact, it is crucial in the particular environment. Japanese companies and business workers expect a certain level of formality in speech. Not only is it required in situations like meetings and interactions with other colleagues in the office, but it’ll also definitely impress them with your fluency in a complicated level of the language. It’s not just the language but the etiquette and mannerisms that come along with it. Most expect specific customs when dealing in a business environment. Some of these etiquettes include a certain way of dressing and movement. Even handing over a business card has a particular way.

Who Should Learn Business Japanese?

Business Japanese is extremely necessary for those who are planning to work in Japan or are required to liaise with Japanese clients. It is considered professionalism and the bare minimum in meetings and those of the likes. You will also want to be able to understand what the other party is talking about, since the vocabulary that comes with business Japanese is a few steps up from conversational Japanese.

Which Is Better: Conversational or Business?

So, which is better, conversational Japanese or business Japanese? The answer is, there isn’t one that is better than the other! Both conversational Japanese and business Japanese have their perks that the other doesn’t. It is more of a matter of preference and personal choice, and what the Japanese learner is learning Japanese for. If you’re learning Japanese to converse casually, conversational Japanese is substantial. If you are working in a Japanese company or plan to, or have Japanese clients that you want to impress, then business Japanese is the better option. Either way, the Japanese people will appreciate every ounce of effort!

The Wrap-up

At the end of the day, whatever category of Japanese you choose should be of your choice. Because you’re the one learning it, and if you pick the right kind of Japanese, you’ll enjoy the learning process more. The Japanese language is a tricky one sometimes, but with a full heart of motivation, it’s as easy as ABC! Ganbatte (頑張って)!