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I have a degree in East Asian Studies. I speak Japanese fairly well, which makes me employable, but nine out of ten people with this degree have no useful proficiency in any Asian language (heritage speakers excepted).



That's interesting. I speak JLPT 1 Japanese, and have never had it be useful in finding work. I do far better for myself not working in the Japanese business culture, and hacking away at a tech startup.

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Really? I'm somewhere in between JLPT 1 and 2, and my Japanese skills have netted me a few job offers.

Hacking away at a startup is way better than dealing with the sheer amounts of bullshit they shovel over here, though. :)

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The jump between JLPT 2 to JLPT 1 was huge. I'm not sure if it's still that way, I heard it's been expanded to 5 levels now. I worked for 18 months in Japan, but if I'm going to work 12 hour days, I would rather be doing it at a startup with a little variety in the work (and stock options).

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Definitely; that's why I didn't take the JLPT 1 last year. I still need to rely too much on a dictionary when reading the paper or novels. The kanji aren't much of a problem, but my vocabulary isn't yet big enough to read in detail.

I've done a few previous JLPT 1 exams, and the vocab is the only place I'm lacking; I can usually narrow down the reading comprehension questions to 'one of these two', but 50% isn't a passing score. :)

Other than 'keep studying', any tips for helping me over the hump?

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You probably know this, but there is a mountain of bullshit to deal with at startup companies and in the IT field in general. I think you'll quickly find that bullshit is everywhere.

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"I speak Japanese fairly well, which makes me employable, but nine out of ten people with this degree have no useful proficiency in any Asian language (heritage speakers excepted)."

You have lived in Japan for at least a couple of years. You might get to know the history of Japan and some of the language in college, but living there is why you can speak it fluently (and know the customs).

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I doubt language skills were the only thing you learned. There are plenty of companies that could benefit from employing someone with such a background, to prevent the many faux pas that can be dealbreakers when doing business with Asians.

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Indeed, I also learned in exquisite detail how unlikely that comment is to be true. (If somebody asked me to do consulting vis a vis a Korean company I would tell them they are boned and charge two hundred bucks. It would be cheap at the price, too.)

Any phrase about all Asians which does not also apply to all Irish is horse puckey. There, I just saved you four years and 120k dollars.

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> (If somebody asked me to do consulting vis a vis a Korean company I would tell them they are boned and charge two hundred bucks. It would be cheap at the price, too.)

For those of us without your degree - why would someone be boned?

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Because anyone whose response to the challenges of doing business in Korea is "He's a Japan guy, that's close enough" is so comprehensively out of their depth it is difficult to imagine.

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Of course there are differences among Asian countries just like there are differences among African countries or any other region. However, an American with Japanese cultural understanding would be much better at consulting with a Korean company than an American with no other cultural understanding.

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Am I wrong in thinking that someone that has a degree in East-Asian studies could advise you on how to deal with Koreans, how to (differently) deal with Vietnamese, etc.? Though having a grounding in East-Asian culture, he could expand his knowledge and understanding to the customs of other Asian countries, regions, peoples, etc. I was not trying to stroke Asia with a broad brush, just trying to succinctly describe what I would expect someone with such a degree to know.

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First, try describing what course of study would prepare one for "How to deal with Americans." Does that sound a little funny to you? Because it should. What would it cover, business etiquette among self-employed American software entrepreneurs or the appropriate preservation of Eucharistic host? If you had the second class but not the first, how would you bootstrap from the second class to cover how to speak to a black female Texan at a business luncheon?

I can talk to you in quite a bit of depth about discrimination against Koreans in post-war Japan, the Toyota production system, and the civil service examination system in pre-modern China. You know the sum total of my book learning about Vietnam? A close reading of my textbooks suggests there may have been a war, possibly involving white people.

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  Does that sound a little funny to you?
No, it doesn't. Large companies that deal a lot with foreign countries tend to employ people whose sole purpose it is to train new employees, who have to deal with those foreign countries, in cultural differences. For instance, a German company that exports to the rest of Europe would employ someone knowledgeable on French, Spanish, Italian, etc. business etiquette. Perhaps, for the US, they would distinguish between California-style, MidWest-style and NY-style; I don't know. I only know that there are people whose bread and butter is to teach others about these differences.

What kind of study prepares you for that? It's closest to cultural anthropology. I would expect it to come easy to sociologists and psychologists with interests in the matter.

Even between The Netherlands and Belgium, there are subtle differences that can be the difference between a deal and a failure. Learn those in a few one hour seminars and the mutual understanding and relationships get easier, or at least not unnecessarily complicated by misunderstandings that can be avoided. On the contrary, within a much larger country like France, even though there are differences and dislikes, especially between north and south, people tend to understand each other better. In Europe, these differences follow borders pretty well.

  how to speak to a black female Texan at a business luncheon?
You can't be prepared for every individual's idiosynchrasies. You can be prepared for what most people that share a similar cultural background expect, even if they aren't aware of it.

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I wouldn't trust anyone who wasn't fluent in the language, regardless of their degrees. If I wanted someone who knew how to deal with (say) Vietnamese, I'd hire a Vietnamese-American. They're not hard to find.

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