Do you think IT-related technical terms are difficult? graph of japanese recently published the results of research by goo Research into how well IT buzzwords are understood. At the start of July they interviewed 1,033 members of their internet monitor group. 42.6% of the sample was male, 1.8% in their teens, 20.3% in their twenties, 41.9% in their thirties, 23.2% in their forties, 10.4% in their fifties, and 2.2% in their sixties.

Most of the buzzwords seem to get imported straight into Japanese as the English term, be it a complete word or an abbreviation. The rest perhaps just end up as katakana renditions of the term, like, for example, Social Network[ing] Service/Site, which ends up in Japanese as just SNS or Social Network Service or Site spelt out in katakana, which doesn’t really help many Japanese as the word “social”. Actually, there’s already a slang term in Japanese for SNS, 出会い系サイト, deai-kei saito, but perhaps it is loaded with overtones of seedy (or downright fraudulent) dating sites, whereas SNS suggests a different, more Western-style location?

Q1: Do you think IT-related technical terms are difficult? (Sample size=1,033)

Age Difficult Difficult
Not difficult
50 to 69 114 87.0% 17
30 to 49 560 83.2% 113
18 to 29 196 85.6% 33
Total 870 84.2% 163

Interestingly, there does seem little variation by age here when one would expect the younger people to be more clued-up.

When asked why they found these buzzwords difficult, 497 people, or 57.1% of the total who had trouble said it was because there was a lot of Western alphabet, which seems an odd answer since most people under 40 at least should know the alphabet from school. I suspect, though, what people were getting at was that the terms are unfamiliar English terms. Next up was too many abbreviations, with 423 people or 48.6% choosing this reason. Again, this is unclear if it is English abbreviations or Japanese contractions, like, to use an example from work this morning, the one that turns ブレーンストーミング, brainstorming, into ブレスト, or buresuto, pronounced and spelt the same as one of the Japanese words for breast.

In addition, 38.5% or 335 people found the new words coming too thick and fast, 27.5% or 239 people found their ears couldn’t get adjusted to the buzzwords, and 223 people or 25.1% had no-one around them they could ask for a definition. Perhaps interestingly, men were relatively slightly weaker than women on abbreviations, with 189 men versus 234 women (remember the sample was 42.6% male, so assuming an equal percentage of men and women found buzzwords difficult, the figure for men is about 5% higher), but women significantly outnumbered men for alphabet problems, with 179 men but 318 women reporting this as a reason.

Q2: Just because people around you use IT technical terms, have you ever used one without understanding its meaning? (Sample size=1,033)

Age Often Often
Sometimes Sometimes
Never Never
50 to 69 27 20.6% 79 60.3% 25 19.1%
30 to 49 60 8.9% 406 60.3% 207 30.8%
18 to 29 14 6.1% 132 57.6% 83 36.2%

There is a noticable difference here with over one in five of the over 50 years old sample being aware of and admitting to often using buzzwords without understanding, although I must say it has been my experience that people younger (I’m sure I’ve even done it a few times) have also used terms incorrectly but without being aware of the fact.

The report suggests that these figures indicate that perhaps older people find it gets harder to say “I don’t understand.”

In addition, when encountering an unknown technical term, just over half (52.9%) look up the meaning, whereas 40.3% just let it pass them by. What the other 7.8% do it not noted. In total half look up the meaning, but by sex over three in five (61.4%) look up words, but only 46.7% of women do.

Q3: Please pick all the technical terms you know in outline at least. (Sample size=1,033, mutliple answer)

Technical term 18 to 29 years old 30 to 49 years old 50 to 69 years old
Blog 213 581 98
Affiliate 164 431 64
QR Code 144 385 43
iTunes 151 310 44
Wikipedia 130 275 28
Windows Vista 78 262 52
Bluetooth 82 234 39
SNS 109 205 34
RSS 84 202 35
Podcasting 78 179 25
Web 2.0 42 130 19
SEM 13 43 3
None of them 0 44 23

Note that the three TLAs, SNS, RSS and SEM (I must confess ignorance on the last one too, so I have probably linked to the wrong place…) get low scores, backing up the earlier statistic of people being weak on abbreviations and the Roman alphabet, and in addition lots of people are unaware that Web two point zero is full of badger’s paws.


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