Hire an Interpreter for a Japanese Trade Show!

Hire an Interpreter for a Japanese Trade Show!

If you are going to exhibit at a Japanese exhibition, how do you think you would succeed?  I can tell you from my experience in supporting foreign companies who were exhibiting in Japan. It’s all about learning about Japanese unique business practices, tips for approaching potential customers and setting up an attractive booth. The more you know about these, the more likely you are to bring home a very satisfying result for your trade show exhibit.

In this article, I highly recommend you have an interpreter on hand as one of the ways to succeed in exhibiting at a Japanese trade show. Please learn three reasons why an interpreter is important at a Japanese trade show.

Reason 1 : The Low English Proficiency of Japanese People

That’s basically because Japanese people’s English proficiency is low. 70% : This is not the percentage of Japanese who speak English. It’s the percentage of Japanese who are not good at English.

In the 2020 edition of the international ranking of English language proficiency by country, out of 100 countries and regions where English is not the first language, Japan ranked 55th, making it the fifth consecutive year of “low proficiency”.

Reference : EF English Proficiency Index >>>

There are many reasons why Japanese people are poor at English, including problems with English education, the structure of Japanese etc., but I will not go into those reasons here. The most important thing is not to exhibit without an interpreter under the mistaken impression that there will be a lot of English speakers at even a Japanese business show. When Japanese visitors, who are not very good at English, see a foreigner standing at a booth, they may think the following.

Japanese visitor
“It’s a foreigner’s booth. I’m interested in this product/service, but I don’t know if I can understand it correctly because of my poor English. Also it would be embarrassing if they found out I couldn’t speak English, so let’s skip it.”
“I can’t speak English, so let’s just get a catalogue and leave for now. ”  (However, it is unlikely that this visitor will contact you later.)

Thus, when a potential customer walks past your booth, they may avoid you simply because of the “language barrier”. It’s very unfortunate, isn’t it?

Some of you may think that even if you get people interested in your company through an interpreter during the exhibition, it will be useless in the end because the communication will be in English after the show.

However, prospective customers and partner companies often have English-speaking personnel. In other words, if you explain to a Japanese person who passes by your booth how great your product or service is, through an interpreter, he/she will connect you with an English-speaking representative.

Also, many Japanese who are not very good at English tend to be less confident in their ability to speak and listen, but more confident in their ability to read and write English. This means that if you can exchange business cards with your prospects, you can certainly take the next step by communicating with them via email. Make sure you realize that interpretation is critical to your success.

Contact us if you would like to hire an interpreter >>>

Reason 2: It shows how serious you are about the Japanese market.

Japanese people tend to value seriousness and earnestness, especially when it comes to their business. They may be cautious about doing business with foreign companies because of their different business practices. However, if you provide an interpreter, they will feel that you are serious and earnest, which is a great advantage for building a good relationship. Also, a business card written in Japanese will be more effective.

Reason 3: You can learn simple Japanese from an interpreter.

I am often told by foreign companies that Japanese people are shy, but the people standing at the booth are actively talking to customers and making sales. Perhaps this is because the salespeople of each company have set goals for how many business cards they can get or how many people they can talk to at a trade show. Serious Japanese sales people try to achieve these goals and keep talking to people who pass by their booths.

In other words, if you don’t talk to them in the same way, you will not stand out from the competition.

However, if you speak to people in English, as I mentioned above, Japanese people, who are not good at English, will be reluctant to talk to you.

If an interpreter teaches you how to speak to people in Japanese, they will probably stop to listen to you. Once they stop, it is only a matter of letting the interpreter take care of the rest. In addition to the usual greetings of “Good morning, Ohayou gozaimasu” and “Hello, Konnichiwa,” there are many other things you can say to encourage customers to take action as below.

 “Douzo Gorankudasai, どうぞ、ごらんください” = ”Please have a look.

  “Douzo Tenitotte Gorankudasai, どうぞ、てにとって、ごらんください” = “Please pick it up and take a look.”

 “Douzo Ohairikudasai, どうぞ、おはいりください”=”Please come inside the booth”

With the help of an interpreter, try talking to your potential customers in Japanese.

Keep in mind that building good relationships in business in Japan starts with overcoming the language barrier. But don’t feel comfortable just hiring an interpreter. In the eyes of visitors, your interpreter is a member of your company and is a factor in determining the impression of your company. This means you need to either ask for a quality interpreter or you need to motivate your interpreter to be active.

The following article will tell you how to select an interpreter and how to make the most of him/her.

※Rakuten Insight, Inc. (headquartered in Setagaya-ku, Tokyo; Atsushi Tamura, President and CEO; hereinafter referred to as “Rakuten Insight”) conducted a “Survey on English” on the Internet. The survey was conducted from Friday, August 5 to Saturday, August 6, 2016, among 1,000 men and women in their 20s to 60s nationwide from among the approximately 2.3 million monitors registered with Rakuten Insight.