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Japanese Business Communication course helps build relationships

Fri Jul 22, 2022 at 08:52 AM

Traveling outside of the United States can bring language and cultural barriers. However, traveling for business can make the situation even more stressful. Oakland University’s Professional and Continuing Education is offering Japanese Business Communication, a one-of-a-kind, online course designed to help those conducting business with people in Japan to get more comfortable with building relationships and understanding the culture. 

The five-week introductory course is facilitated by Michele Plattenberger, special lecturer in the Department of Modern Languages and Literature, and is conducted completely online. 

“The course is designed for adult professionals who work with the Japanese, whether they are customers or suppliers, and are trying to build relationships or enhance relationships by learning about the cultures and the differences of how business is done,” said Plattenberger. 

Plattenberger said she aims to teach students the basics of Japanese culture as well as what she calls survival skills for traveling around the country. 

“I’ve traveled to Japan with people who have never been there before. They are always surprised when I recommend wearing slip-on/slip-off shoes with socks because they will need to remove their shoes in several different situations. Learning these types of things, specifically targeting Japan, is important to developing the building relationships for those in business,” said Plattenberger. While it is geared toward those in business, Plattenberger added that anyone with an interest can take the course. 

“I’m trying to teach westerners that it is important to be aware of other cultures, just as it is important for those cultures to be aware of western cultures. We can all learn to be more culturally aware and culturally sensitive. If you are trying to do that, it goes a long way,” said Plattenberger. 

This course was designed as part of Plattenberger’s doctoral program in adult education with a focus in foreign language acquisition specializing in Japanese. After teaching these concepts to various corporations for several years, she recognized the need to offer it to individuals as well. While this is the first time the program will be offered, she has plans to do it again in the future. 

Plattenberger said she developed the programming for the Japanese group corporate training through Oakland University’s PACE to help increase completion and reduce fail rates for adult professionals forced into the undergraduate program. She applied those concepts when designing this course for individual enrollment. She said a backwards design theory helps her make sure students achieve the learning goals. 

“The undergraduate studies are aimed at fluency, however those in business are not always looking for fluency. They are looking for phrases, survival techniques and the undergraduate proficiency assessments and outcomes were not appropriate for the business professionals who were interested in the program,” said Plattenberger. She said the Japanese Business Communication course teaches the basics, like the writing systems, the key phrases and appropriate types of behavior. 

The first class begins Sept. 13 and is offered online. 

“It’s open to anyone interested in building relationships with Japanese counterparts, anyone interested in traveling to Japan and it’s not going to have a specific automotive focus. It’s focused on building better relationships in business,” said Plattenberger. 

Plattenberger said she covers essential business etiquette topics along with survival topics like food, reading a menu, using public transportation systems, how to use Google Translate to help with communication, and working through an essential pre-departure checklist for traveling to Japan, and more.  

In researching the need for a class like this, Plattenberger said this program is unique and valuable. 

“This is the only program of its type that I’ve found. Every other course out there assumes some level of language understanding or proficiency,” said Plattenberger. “This course is made for those who want to strengthen relationships and introduce themselves to the important parts of the Japanese culture and language.”

For more information on the course, visit the Japanese Business Communication course information page or contact Michele Plattenberger at plattenb@oakland.edu.