The Pain Is The Way: My First Public Talk In Japanese

How big is big?

A week ago I was invited to Japan to give a talk at NEDO (New Energy and Industrial Trade Development — a government agency in charge of supporting research and technology transfers).

I was told there would be no translation and that it would help if I could present in Japanese. I have dabbled in the language for years and managed to do several meetings almost entirely in it recently so I felt confident I could pull this off.

How foolish.

I did not make time to rehearse, nor got a native speaker to correct me in advance, so I ended up improvising most of what I said from my usual English version.

Needless to say, it was probably painful to hear ^_^;

Also, that one talk turned into three talks:

  • A first casual one of 20 minutes with startups.
  • An hour-long meeting at METI (Ministry of Technology, Trade and Industry). I mostly talked about “safety nets” (my new pet peeve). The team I was meeting with were very serious on the topic of ecosystem research. When I said I was mostly a hobbyist, one of them replied, with a smile, “it’s my job” :)
  • Then the NEDO one for 40 minutes. ヤッタ!

Fortunately, a kind soul took notes at the first event and summarized the key points in much better Japanese. I should have used it a lot more than I did for later talks… Maybe there will be a next time?

My talk at NEDO (the last and best one, more trained and confident). Enjoy?

Essentially, I sound like a French man translating English into Japanese. I din’t realize my accent was so thick. Well, I guess it’s a start! ;p

For a better understanding, here are the slides of the talk:

Last, here is a piece I wrote some time ago for Forbes about Japan, titled “What Japan Must Do To Create The Next Sony”.

I have to say that I was quite disappointed by what I found in Japan. I have been hoping for a hardware uprising for several years with HAX (since Japan is so strong at electronics and research) but the situation was worse than I thought during previous trips.

There is innovation but very few startups, and most of it goes to be implemented in large companies or just dies of disuse. The personal risk after failure is just too high. On top, researchers can’t easily find jobs in Japan, and China’s Huawei is hiring some because they are quite affordable.

It’s a pity. 本当に残念です。

PS: one thing for sure is that presenting in English after that feels like a walk in the park! Next stop: in Mandarin?

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store