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My reading ability in Japanese is quite good, but I know that I can't write like a native speaker, and my sentences will end up sounding like 片言 if I go on for very long.  I don't want to give off a sense that I lack professionalism, but I also feel that it's best to try to communicate with customers to the best of my ability in their own language.  What does everyone here suggest?

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    Lara

    Personally, I suggest trying to be polite within your limited ability - make it a point to use -desu / -masu forms, and keigo (no need to overdo it though.) 
    Also, the use of "cushion kotoba" like お世話になります、お手数をおかけいたしますが、大変申し訳ありませんが、etc feels important to me. Japanese customers are used to this kind of service, and while some may not be expecting a perfect Japanese-style 接客 from Gengo or foreign translators, showing that you care about their way of talking business, could really make communication smoother. IMO showing your willingness to communicate and to trying to adjust to their expectations (even if you can't write 100% perfect sentences) does make a difference. Keep your sentences short and to the point, and if you are not confident about them you can add an apology in advance for your 日本語での文章能力。
    Hope this helps!

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    JETrans26

    Thanks for the advice.  I have of course avoided slipping into familiar forms, but I know I probably haven't made enough use of formalized phrases.

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    Rebecca

    I'm similar to you JETrans26, sometimes I worry about giving a bad impression, especially because my keigo can be a bit shaky. I think Lara's advice is great-- short, clear and polite sentences are the way to go if you're feeling unsure. 

    One thing that I found useful was to use Weblio (can we use links here?) or other sentence dictionaries-- I think if you're able to translate you're able to judge what sounds appropriate from there (they're not always perfect), but it's nice to have a second opinion sometimes. Google is also handy that way, too. 

    Another thing I found useful if you don't already is to use Gengo in Japanese, so that when you're talking to customers about site-specific things you're using the same terminology they're seeing on their dashboard.

     

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    JETrans26

    Setting the UI to Japanese is a great idea, thanks!

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    peanut butter

    I understand the problem of feeling self-conscious about writing in imperfect Japanese. After rearing two children to be perfectly bilingual and bicultural, my confidence in being able to "master" Japanese expression is irreversibly damaged.

    But look at it from the customer's viewpoint. Pretend you didn't know Japanese at all and went to Gengo to get something translated into that language. The Japanese translator comes back to you with a question in clumsy English, but the substance of the question is intelligible nonetheless. Unless you have a personality disorder, you would probably gladly field the question and feel good that the translator wants to stay on track. Keigo shouldn't be a huge problem if a substantive issue is at stake. Go ahead and take a chance!

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