With the expansion of Western power from the seventeenth century onward, many Asian countries were confronted with difficult political and economic problems in their relations with Europe. In several countries in Asia, in order to suppress Western cultural influences within their own nations, governments often employed foreigners as interpreters for their own diplomacy and trade with Europeans, with some governments even prohibiting their people from learning foreign languages.
But, in the case of Japan, interpreters played a crucial role in both the study of the Dutch language and the integration of Western knowledge during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It seems that early-modern Japanese interpreters were quite different from the interpreters of Western languages in other countries in Asia, as in Nagasaki interpreters of the Dutch language were shogunate-appointed Japanese nationals.
Here I will examine and compare several aspects of the Chinese pidgin-English interpreters at Canton and the Japanese Dutch-language interpreters at Nagasaki, in particular their origins, incomes, duties, learning, and businesses. Through this examination I will demonstrate how the so-called Westernisation processes adopted in China and Japan were actually reflected in and represented by the different models of foreign trade at the ports of Canton and Nagasaki.