Take the 2-minute tour ×
Japanese Language Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for students, teachers, and linguists wanting to discuss the finer points of the Japanese language. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Update: There seems to be some controversy here as to whether or not there really is a difference between vouching and guaranteeing, which impacts how it is translated. Please see the discussion I started on English L&U about this, where I believe the answers are supporting the idea that there is a difference, and explain what that difference is.

Japanese does not seem to have a readily available equivalent for the concept of "vouching" for someone when you are introducing someone for work, or as a possible date, or whenever there is some kind of favour involved and it's not just social.

To be more accurate, in Japanese culture, when one introduces someone else, the default assumption is that you are vouching for that person.

Which means that just about any and every introduction comes with a fair amount of responsibility. Which might be fine, except Japanese tend to err on the side of caution by being hesitant to make introductions, for whatever purpose, for fear that something might go wrong.

The words the dictionary provides for "vouch" is 保証【ほしょうする】, or 請け合う【うけあう】, both of which mean "guarantee", which is much too strong. I think because the default assumption is that any introduction comes with a sense of vouching for that person, to then add words only stresses the assurance, not qualify it.

The problem with anything like "guaranteeing", is that it implies that if something goes wrong, you can come back to me, either for compensation, or maybe just to punch me in the stomach, or something.

In English language and culture, when I'm vouching for someone, I am telling you about the content of their character. What transpires from their actions is between you and them. Guaranteeing is about putting assurance on future actions and transactions.

So is there a way in Japanese I can say I'm vouching for the person without guaranteeing their future actions?

Also, can I qualify a meeting by saying I'm not vouching for someone? In other words, despite the fact that this introduction is to help you with something, I'm only making the introduction because I'm trying to help, but I don't know the person I'm introducing well enough to give you any assurance.

This is somewhat a cultural issue as well as a language issue, which means I wouldn't expect there's some perfect term that I simply haven't discovered yet. If this is a concept that has to be described in some way so as to introduce it to the language, then let's concoct something new.

share|improve this question
    
I think in English, 'vouching' for someone does put a bit of a guarantee on it. You are saying that you are staking some of your reputation on their actions. You're saying, "If you trust me, trust this person. They won't let you down." Without that, vouching is simply an introduction, and @sawa's answer would be correct. –  William Jul 29 '11 at 10:43
1  
Huh? No concept of vouching in Japan?! We must not live in the same country. I think the answer is the opposite: practically all introductions in Japan imply a degree of vouching. Which is also why work/romantic introductions are greatly improved if made by a trusted third party. As for anything stronger (such as financially vouching for someone), then I think 保証する (as in e.g. 保証人) is the word you want... –  Dave Jul 29 '11 at 13:45
    
Also, I think the difference you are making between "present character" and "future actions" is quite obviously present in both languages when vouching for someone. Nobody can ever claim to predict the future, you are therefore always vouching for a person's current character (but in doing so, indirectly vouching for their future actions)... The difference between "vouching" and "guaranteeing" is more a legal/financial one (in that the latter makes you liable to pay for the actions of your "vouchee"). –  Dave Jul 29 '11 at 13:49
    
@DaveMG and why I said 'a bit of a guarantee'. –  William Jul 29 '11 at 18:15
    
@DaveMG: "How do I introduce someone while making clear I am not vouching for them": now, had you started by asking this, we'd be much further along already ;-) If that is really what you want to know, I personally feel your question could use some rewording/shortening (the current lack of answer would tend to agree with me)... FWIW, I think I would make such a lack of vouching clear, by exposing how thin my own connection is (e.g. using "知合い" rather than anything stronger)... –  Dave Jul 29 '11 at 18:23

2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Let me start by thinking about the difference between vouching and guaranteeing. If I understand what you're saying right, you mean something like: if I lend a guy a guitar because you vouch for him as a reliable guy, and he breaks it and won't replace it, I'm SOL, because I have no right to expect you to replace it instead. But if you guarantee that he won't break it, I am within my rights to ask you to replace it.

I think in the first case I would still be pissed at you, though. I would feel that you had misled me (unintentionally or not) about this guy's character, and that you had a moral obligation to step up and make the situation right.

Maybe your understanding of "vouching" is different; if so, that shows that the concept of "vouching" is hard to translate partly because it means different things in different contexts/to different people. And a word this flexible is unlikely to have an exact counterpart in Japanese, as you note.

So if there's something you want to say to differentiate an introduction from "default vouching", it's probably best to state it directly. 信頼できる人だと思いますよ, or whatever. If my guitar got broken in that case, I might feel that you had terrible judgment, but I probably wouldn't feel misled -- you did say と思います, after all. (Of course, I might still decide to hold you responsible.)

I would offer a similar answer for your opposite question, how to introduce someone without vouching for them. If you want your hedge to be clear, and don't have the skill to put it across by implication alone (I don't think I do), the safe thing to do is to state it clearly. 直接一緒に仕事したことはないけど, 二回しか会ったことないけど, etc.

share|improve this answer

I have no illusion that this answer might not be up to your expectations (it is rather a list of minor points and suggestions), but it is probably more appropriate than the lengthy comment back-and-forth we've been having, so here goes:

1. I disagree with the level along which you differentiate "vouching" and "guaranteeing" (in the context of introductions). As a few have pointed out already, I think the general idea is that "vouching" is merely a moral (and somewhat informal) obligation whereas "guaranteeing" implies something stronger (often legal or financial) and more formal. In both cases, the implication on the person you are vouching/guaranteeing for is the same: you wager a share of your own "standing credit" to their benefit. In both cases, you are bearing witness to the content of their character (to what extent: you decide), which does indirectly affect how they might behave in their future interactions with the person you are introducing them to (I don't think anybody is asking you to predict the future either).

I think you could perfectly envision a situation where you vouch strongly for someone you'd trust with your life (say, setting up your brother with a friend), yet put guarantee for someone you do not know so intimately (typically: when facilitating a business deal).

However, this is all obviously way out of scope for JLU (not even particularly Japan-related), so better agree to disagree, if that's not how you see things (although I fear it has a strong impact on any possible answer to your question).

2. Your first sub-question asks how to "vouch for somebody without guaranteeing their future actions" and the point above should make it clear how that is contradictory in nature.

More exactly: I don't think any reasonable person would ever ask you to vouch/guarantee for all possible future actions of the person you are introducing: only what can be reasonably foreseen from their character and past actions:

  • If thermonuclear war strikes tomorrow and the person you vouched for turns out to be a sleeper agent for the rising masses of robotic overlords, I don't think anybody will call you on that.

  • On the other hand, if that person turns out to be a deeply unpleasant individual to work with, who consistently produces shoddy work and casually steals expensive office supply, your business partner might understandably expect you to not have vouched for such a person (and blame you accordingly if you did).

3. Which takes us to the (slightly anticlimactic and rather obvious) answer, which also should address your second subquestion:

To "vouch" for someone you do not want to guarantee anything about (i.e. vouch for), you simply do not vouch for them.

While vouching is indeed an implied part of formal Japanese business introductions, it is also perfectly possible to introduce someone without vouching for them.

It sounds you may be looking for a specific word (although it is unclear whether you want a verb describing such an action, such as 保証する, or a sentence/expression that can be used while performing it). I honestly don't think there is a particular set expression in Japanese that says "I am not vouching for this person" and is recommended in business situations (at least I have never heard it), but there is a plethora of ways to distance yourself from a person you are introducing:

  • Pointedly using the word "知り合い" (or similar) at the exclusion of any word indicating a formal association through work or such (同僚 etc).

  • Insisting on how undeveloped your own relationship is: e.g. how many times you've met, such as recommended in Matt's answer (but this could easily sound quite rude if the person you are introducing is present). If the "vouchee" is not part of the conversation, then I find that "会えば会釈する程度" ("nodding acquaintance") is quite a nice non-commital (yet respectful) turn of phrase.

  • Common sense, really, but: keeping your introduction short and terse within the limit of politeness is a good way to convey your neutrality: "吉田会社の田村さんです".

3. With all that said, I think it is worth pointing out that, particularly in Japanese business settings, you will often be called to vouch for people that you may not want to vouch for. Unfair as it may be, there is just no way to introduce a member of your inner circle (relative, colleague etc.) to an outsider without automatically taking a part of responsibility in their future actions (if you have the intimate conviction that your boss is an axe murderer, you can try slipping some oblique reference in, but good luck with that).

(This aspect may or may not have to do with your current situation, but at any rate, it is squarely in the "Culture" side of things, so let's not dwell on it here.)

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.