“A Simple “Hai” Won’t Do” Essay
In the article “A Simple “Hai” Won’t Do” published in New York Times, April 15, 1992, Reiko Hatsumi begins by identifying herself as a person who has been absorbed both Asian and American cultures as well as expressing her sympathy to those who are confused by the usage of a Japanese word “hai”, which means “yes” in English. She is motivated by a story of her friend, who was suffered by a cultural shock and misjudged Japanese businessmen as “liars”. By using effective rhetorical strategies, Hatsumi successfully clarifies the variable meanings of “hai” in each context, and thus helps bridge the gap between different cultures and languages.
Hatsumi’s article aims to two major audiences. Obviously, her main targeted readers are foreigners living in Japan and those who have or will have interaction with Japanese people. Due to this essay, they can obtain a better understanding of “hai” and avoid confusion and incorrect judgment. No one will be suffered like her American friend. Her readers are also Japanese people because the Japanese need to know that their common word “hai” may cause problems to other people and they should adjust their speaking style when communicating with other people.
In this article, Hatsumi combines two rhetorical appeals: ethos and logos to achieve her purpose. She firstly employs ethos by introducing she has lived in both East and West. Being a Japanese American and having a deep knowledge about the two cultures, she indeed has credibility and authority to explain the complexity in the usage of “hai”. She demonstrates her expertise by using proper English to explain the different meanings of this Japanese word. The author not only uses ethos, but she also applies logos appeal to defend her argument.
She opposes her friend’s claim, which is “All Japanese businessmen are liars”, by giving two logical reasons. The first reason is it is not right to generalize all Japanese businessmen to be deceivers because if they were like that, they “would be driving each other mad”. The second reason is her friend must have misunderstood the word “hai”, which cannot be used exactly like “yes” in English. To prove her points, she defines the meanings of “hai” in various circumstances and provides examples to make the explanations clear and easy to understand.
In conclusion, Hatsumi’s article gives readers an insight into Japanese culture and language by explaining the usage of the word “hai”. The author defines an issue in Japanese and American cultures, but its application should not be limited in the two cultures because America is a multicultural country, where people can meet and communicate with others who have different origins every day. Therefore, it is significant to obtain a good knowledge about other cultures to avoid serious repercussions.