English for Asian readers

Subject: English for Asian readers
From: Steven Owens <uso01 -at- MAILHOST -dot- UNIDATA -dot- COM>
Date: Sun, 21 Nov 1993 18:08:38 -0600

Margaret Gerard said:
>> Recently I heard a passing comment that:
>> "In some Asian countries, readers are offended by the
>> use of the imperative mood and/or 'you' (for the user)
>> in technical documentation."
>> Does anyone know anything about this? Can anyone suggest any
>> references?

> I'm sorry, I can't provide references. All I can say is that in
> Japanese the imperative is not generally used. There is a way to
> say "it would be better if you X", or "let's X", or "please X",
> and these are used instead of the imperative. "You" is not generally
> used, but this is no surprise because Japanese often has an
> unspecified actor.

Hm.... I don't know if this book is available, but you might dig
up "Zen Action/Zen Person." An interesting examination of how the
japanese language and phrasing of person-to-person communication
affects their philosophies.

One section, I recall, referred to the use of "you". In english,
typically the metaphor we use is that I am sending signals to you,
and you are sending signals to me. In japanese, the metaphor is
that I am sending signals to a third party, which then relays signals
to you, and vice versa.

Of course, you'll probably get a lot more out of the book :-)

Steven J. Owens
us01 -at- unidata -dot- com

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