On Context

This is not a blog post about the Japanese language, nor the complexities of Kanji. It is a blog post about the importance of giving context, in life and in business.

While shopping, I was asked at the cash register:
“Yotsuba no muen de yoroshii desuka”
“よつばのむえんでよろしいですか”

As I wasn’t certain I heard correctly, asked to repeat the question and while it was repeated, I connected the dots and realized I was asked about the butter I am purchasing.
When writing it in Kanji, it may become clearer to some people, but it is still not clear out of context.
”四葉の無塩でよろしいですか” – Did you select the unsalted butter manufactured by Yotsuba?

「四葉」 is the name of the butter manufacturer. Literally meaning “four leaves” .

「無塩」meaning unsalted, but from listening, one cannot know which 「むえん」 it is. As it can be 「無煙」smokeless … does not make sense .
「無縁」- unrelated … also does not make a lot of sense.

Now, if I was given the context: “About the butter…”, it would have been clearer. Saved us a lot of time and also this blog post.

As I wrote in the beginning, this is not a post about the Japanese language.

I often encounter similar miscommunication and the need to repeat explanations in business meetings. While the person talking knows the context, it is not necessarily conveyed in words. Leaves a lot to mis-interpretations and misunderstandings.

Giving context and leading the listener is an art. Believing that the listener has your knowledge and understanding is common.

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