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”
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.