Inside Job: Talking about The Intricacies of Investing in Japanese

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Photo by Becca Takano

As if the world of investment and finances isn’t intimidating enough in our own language, it can be especially baffling in Japanese. The Japanese language seems to have an overwhelming number of words for investing that make even talking about our finances in the most basic terms intimidating — let alone actually taking the risk of investing your hard earned wages.

Take the simple act of talking about your bank account. In Japan, there are countless different words for the many kinds of accounts that people have. The basic term for a bank account is a 口座こうざ (standard account) and to this suffix, you then add a prefix depending on the type of account that you have.

The most common types of account are the 当座預金とうざよきん口座 (checking account), 法人ほうじん口座 (corporate account), 個人こじん口座 (individual account) and 普通預金ふつうよきん口座 (regular savings account).

If some of these words can be a little tricky to remember, luckily the influence of English has started to move into the banking sector, making things a little easier. The Japanese habit of taking English words and changing them into Japanese has resulted in such hodgepodges of Japanese and English as a チェッキング口座 (“checking” account) and a セービング口座 (“savings” account).

For people willing to take the next step and try their hand at investment, these learners should be aware that in Japanese, the world of investment has some very tricky vocabulary even at the most rudimentary level.

In Japanese, the world of investment has some very tricky vocabulary even at the most rudimentary level.

Similar to the many different words for accounts mentioned above, there are a lot of different ways to say the same thing in finance. Even simply talking about an “investment” can be difficult as — limiting myself to the common words only — there are 出資しゅっし (one’s investment in a company) and 出金しゅっきん (actual amount invested). The general term for “investment” is 投資とうし and it can be used for anything — be it a company or something completely different.

In Japan, there are also many different investment products available. The most common are かぶ (stocks). However, learners will also need to know 定期預金ていきよきん, the word for a fixed-term deposit (aka a CD in other countries or as a bond in the U.K.). This word can seem tricky until you break it down into its component parts: a deposit (the 預金 part) that’s held as an investment at an institution for a certain amount of time (the 定期 part).

In order to track the amount of money that you’re earning, you will want to track the 年利ねんり (annual interest rate). Learners should make an effort to remember 利 as it also appears in other words for interest, like the 利子りし paid to you from your investments, the 利息りそく (interest earned) and the general 利率りりつ (interest rate).

These are the basic terms that you will need to know if you want to get your head around the complicated world of investing and finances in Japan. While it may be intimidating to even start to think about these ideas, for long-term expats this can be a good way to make your wages go further. Even if you never invest, simply thinking about the words and phrases will at least get you thinking in a more productive, money-focused manner.

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