Reviewed by Dr. George Simons at www.diversophy.com
Compact Audio Disc 24-page instructional manual. 53 minutes.
Language teaching without cultural insight is inherently faulted—like learning the parts of an automobile by reading the manual, and then believing oneself licensed to drive. On the other hand, cross-cultural savvy without some language familiarity severely limits one's effectiveness. Earning a degree in intercultural or international studies without another language and being able to code experience from a second perspective is unthinkable but all to common.
In the 1960's Brazilian activist Paolo Freire began to teach people to read and write, not as neutral skill sets, but as political tools to better their lives and livlihood. People learned what they needed to make change happen. “No grita, no mama,” runs the Spanish saying. Babies are born knowing that if they don't cry, they don't get fed. Adults, however, usually have to learn that it is important to go after what they want in ways that others can understand and respond to.
When stepping over the threshold of another culture, this is not a straightforward task. Exact grammar and a big vocabulary, desirable as they may be, do not make a person fluent in another language. Fluency is being able to think with the other person as you say what you mean and what you feel, and to do this with enough cultural alertness to build rather than hurt a relationship.
Enter Shinrai, a quick course, not in how to speak Japanese, but about how key Japanese forms of expression can support the critical task of Building Trusting Relationships with Japanese Colleagues, as the subtitle of the CDROM states. Shinrai is a set of cultural survival skills for people working and negotiating with Japanese.
Not surprisingly, this creative approach comes from the synergy of its two authors, Dianne Hofner Saphiere and Yuko Kipnis, the first a Japanologist and the second a culturally astute language trainer. In less than an hour, they make the listener aware that sensitivity to context is crucial to choosing the attitudes and words that engender a sense of connectedness or family (uchi) with Japanese colleagues.
Shinrai means “trust.” It is what comes about by carefully shaping and sharing one's intentions and commitments. This challenge starts the moment one is introduced and begins to interact in social situations with Japanese colleagues. Following the CD, the student learns step-by-step the mindset and expressions that build trust, convey careful listening, assist problem solving, and that guide words and actions in moments of conflict and disagreement.
Towards the end, the program comes together in three business case scenarios. These test the user's ability to think in terms of the expressions and mindsets that they have been exposed to in this short course. The cases powerfully demonstrate how the learnings are put to use.
The authors have taken care to use language appropriate for both men and women, since how one speaks Japanese can differ according to gender. The presentation is simple and understandable. Shinrai can be used by individuals or made part of language training.
You don't have to read, speak, or teach Japanese to get some mighty “aha's” from Shinrai. The reviewer does not do any of these, but if asked to work in Japan or with Japanese, would go about language studies and readying the assignment quite differently as a result of the hour spent with this CD.
Review by David C. Wigglesworth
Review by David C. Wigglesworth, Ph.D., an international/intercultural management and organization development consultant. He can be reached at 2606 Parkdale Drive, Kingwood, TX 77339-2476 USA, Tel: 281-359-4234; Email:
Dianne Hofner Saphiere and Yuko Kipnis created an exciting training program for enhancing relationship twixt westerners and Japanese. Consisting of a 53 minute audio CD and a 24 page instructional manual, it provides keen insights into the subtleties of building trusting relationships. The authors accomplish this by integrating cultural factors with those unique phrases that can aid and abet in this development.
The practitioner gets acquainted with what the authors call "Japanese common sense" which may and probably is somewhat different from your own and from your perception of the Japanese. The phrases that are introduced are deliberately of a high impact that demonstrate your sincerity and commitment.
The audio CD has 22 tracks that include lecturettes, dialogs, and conversational scenarios and explanatory and explorative thoughts on these scenarios. The topics focus on introductions, greetings, gratitude and apologies, socializing, extending invitations, dining out, listening and clarifying meanings, resolving conflicts and solving problems, and saying "no" or indicating hesitation. Additionally, there are guides to pronunciation, common English loan words that are part of today's Japanese vocabulary, and additional resources, including on-line resources.
Of particular interest to me was the etymology of the word shinrai and its key cultural implications, as well as the authors' ideas for the basis of this program, and the key points that they emphasize to remember about relationships with Japanese colleagues.
This is an admirable work of great value to those working with Japanese colleagues in particular and to interculturalists in general. By revisiting ningen kankei (relationships) the authors have brought new light and meaning to the subject and have provided a useful building block for cultural understanding.
Review by Tamah L. Nakamura
Fukuoka Jo Gakuin University
Shinrai is a high quality audio CD with a 24-page booklet that fits conveniently inside the CD jacket. This innovative CD introduces basic Japanese phrases and cultural insights set into a theme of relationship building through integrated language and culture learning. Language and cultural points are presented in `Tracks' (columns in the booklet) that correspond to tracks on the CD, streamlining the use of the booklet and the CD. Shinrai fills a gap in the intercultural learning market by providing combined language and culture practice in a CD format allowing flexible practice for busy people such as when jogging, and on public transportation
The word shinrai means “trust”, “confidence”, or “to rely on” as explained on the last page of the booklet and was chosen by the authors to represent the content of the Shinrai program to develop trusting relationships with Japanese colleagues. The authors identify three key Japanese cultural values underpinning the language and culture insights presented.
1. Appropriate behavior and the meaning of phrases is defined by the context;
2. A high value is placed on relationships which can be maintained by using phrases with positive emotional impact;
3. Politeness and respect are exhibited by awareness of status differences and the use of appropriate language politeness levels.
The CD and booklet contain 22 tracks of phrases and dialogues contextualized in key cultural points: ningen kankei (relationships); tsukiai (socializing); aizuchi (listening and clarifying); resolving conflict and solving problems; saying no or indicating hesitation. An example language phrase, “okage sama de”, is suggested to use as a response when someone compliments your work. This indicates that the success of your project includes the cooperation of your colleague. Phrases in Shinrai are gender neutral making this program attractive to both women and men. Tracks 20-22 introduce three scenarios in business settings in which misunderstanding occurs with Japanese colleagues. Suggestions for negotiation are provided. A supplementary section lists content-related Common English Loan Words, and pages 21-24 offer excellent references for further reading and online resources.
Although the example situations and scenarios focus on business transactions between Westerners and Japanese, intercultural trainers and educators can adapt the material to other settings. It would be useful to prepare for initial contact or review for business interactions. Family members of executives who will need to function in colleagueship-type relationships (PTA, neighborhood associations [chonaikai]) will also benefit from the program. The scenarios provide practical material for intercultural communication discussion.
In my own attempt to adapt the material, I included Shinrai language and culture content in a speech to a Japanese Elderhostel group in Kyushu with a focus on developing multi-cultural perspectives. I translated the three scenarios into Japanese and asked them to write their answers. I discovered the answers varied. I then realized that the use of the scenarios was not to find absolute answers, but that the scenarios offer a process-oriented interactive approach to culture and language learning. They offer a built-in conversation opportunity for cross-cultural discussion with Japanese colleagues to be revisited and re-discussed.
I further realized as I prepared the speech using the components of Shinrai that in order to demonstrate the cultural and language points clearly to the audience, I needed to offer specific examples of comparable speech acts that I, an American, would use in English. I supplemented the gratitude and apology speech acts which are introduced in Tracks 7 and 8, for example, with the formal refusal through apology used in English which starts with a positive statement (“That sounds good”), followed by the actual refusal (“but I won't be able to go with you”) and a reason (“because I have an appointment with Jane”). Comparison of the English positive statement with the Japanese apology speech act, “Sorry, I have an appointment” clearly indicates the value of the apology as the social lubricant in the Japanese sociolinguistic context.
From this example it is clear that the components of language and cultural learning that Shinrai focus on as important for non-Japanese to develop trusting relationships with Japanese are cross-cultural knowledge gaps for non-Japanese. This use of addressing the cultural aspects in language practice proves the necessity for learning material such as Shinrai that integrates both components.
My experience creating my own examples and getting feedback from a Japanese audience point up the fact that a manual is merely a guide. In the introduction to Shinrai the authors encourage users to go beyond stereotypes and personalize the information by discussing it with Japanese counterparts. My greatest insights into how to benefit from Shinrai's integrative approach came from interaction and discussion with my Japanese counterparts. One suggestion, then, to enhance application of Shinrai for potential practitioners is to make the process-oriented, intercultural communication underpinnings explicit in the introduction in the booklet.