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Communication and the Japanese Language

Language is essential to communication, but it is a complex tool that can make understanding difficult at times. The challenges and sometimes exaggerated promises of technology add further complications. This series examines language and ways in which people make themselves understood in a Japanese context.

Stumbling Over Words: The Growing Communication Gap in Japanese Politics

Words may be the most potent weapon in politics, but they are a double-edged sword. In the social-media age, a slip of the tongue can quickly spell disaster and send a politician scrambling to do damage control. In Japan, a recent spate of gaffes and verbal chicanery among prominent legislators has many experts lamenting a breakdown in communication between leaders in Tokyo and their constituents around the nation.
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A Warning About Japan’s Future? AI Outperforms Students at Reading

Professor Arai Noriko has predicted that artificial intelligence will perform half of all white-collar jobs in 2030. Her project pitting an AI against the University of Tokyo entrance examination got her thinking about how well young students are actually able to read. She started researching a new test to assess reading ability and draw attention to those junior high and high school students who cannot read well enough to understand their textbooks.
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“Seaman” Virtual Pet Creator Working on Chat-Capable AI

Voice recognition technologies are still in their infancy, responding to specific requests or following set patterns. Saitō Yutaka, the designer of the Seaman virtual pet games, wants to create a conversation engine for the Japanese language that will make talking with artificial intelligence a more natural experience.
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Failure to Communicate in the Social Media Age

Miscommunication has always been a problem, but it seems to be magnified in the online world. Dictionary editor Iima Hiroaki, who often posts about the Japanese language on Twitter, gives his perspective on poor listeners and others who regularly get the wrong end of the stick.
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