Think about it. How aggravated are the patriots in a “certain” country about a “certain” ethnic group not learning the language of that country? I now find myself in a similar situation to others who have landed on the shores of foreign lands for generations. Do you huddle with the masses of your now foreign friends all of whom speak your language, eat the same food, go to the same place of worship and miss the same life back home or do you struggle daily limping along with a language that baffles at every turn making an already difficult adjustment more complicated?
When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Moving Lesson #6- Learn the language. From my perspective there are two reasons. The inhabitants of the country in which you are settling will be more welcoming. In my case, I have no hopes of learning Japanese. My sensei has been teaching the same lesson for the last three. I continue to try and I cheat as often as possible. I feel it’s important because I have learned a valuable lesson through my lamentable undertakings at Japanese. When my fledgling attempts wither and fall to the ground, some sweet, polite Japanese person quietly, patiently and with great empathy comes to my rescue. Case in point.
Yesterday, I was once again, trying to ride a bus. (This will be a topic for a later post.) I asked the bus driver if it went to a particular train station. He and I went back and forth and finally agreed that it did in fact go to that location. By the time I boarded, several Japanese travelers were snickering. I was- as usual- the only non-Japanese person around. Off we go. I have no idea where we are in relation to my stop. Several minutes pass. A minute woman makes her way toward me. She says “Roppongi itchome” presses a button, and points to me indicating my stop is next. By demonstrating a desire to learn the language, I became the underdog. She wanted to help. I doubt the outcome would have been the same had I acted differently. The Japanese are known for being polite and one can argue that someone would have done this for anyone, however, I am going to test my theory in France -eventually.
Secondly, it allows you the freedom to live a normal day-to-day life free from miscommunications that commonly occur as a result of not knowing the language. Many Japanese speak English very well and I find that one uses a combination of English and Japanese in those situations. I always wish my Japanese was progressing more rapidly. A few days ago I went to a very large Nike store for offspring supplies. As I was shopping I found some great slip on shoes for me. The salesman asked me my size- 8.
He brings me the Size 8.
I take off my shoes- I don’t have on socks.
“Socks?” I ask
“Hai” He says
He takes a very long time. I see another salesman.
“Can I have some socks please” He brings me a pair of socks. I put them on.
Salesman #1 comes back with a Size 6 shoe instead of a pair of socks. I thank him anyway.
The pair of slip on shoes has a round tightener on the back of the heel for tightening once it is on the foot, unfortunately, I used that tightener to pull the shoe on my foot and it popped right off. It made a huge POP and flew out of my hand, shot through the air and directly toward the face of salesman #2 who deftly caught it right before it nailed him in his forehead. The three of us looked at each other. I was mortified. Salesman #2 tossed it back to Salesman #1 and hurried away. I was speechless. All of the polite Japanese on level 2 of the Nike store hurriedly cleared the floor out of embarrassment for the salesman and me. The clerk at the cash register started to carefully clean the dirt out of the wall display. Between the two of us we got the fastener back on the shoe. I said, “I guess they don’t fit.” I bought one of everything between me and the cash register out of guilt.
Spouse said, “It’s a good thing he didn’t think you said sex.”
Learn the language.
Reminds me of the story of a certain family member offering peanuts to all the folks gathered in a hospital waiting room “P—-s? Like some p—-s?”
I’ve enjoyed reading your blog about Japan. Even though I took Japanese there are so many little things that I never really got to learn about how everyday life operates over there. In thanks for your enlightening posts I would like to recommend something that has helped me when I read the Mainichi Shinbun online.
There is a great Japanese translator tool called “Rikaichan” that is an add on for the Firefox browser. When it’s turned on, all you have to do is hover over Kanji/Hiragana/Katakana and it will give you an English translation of the word. (It even has a list of recognized Japanese name Kanji built in!) Hope this helps. 🙂
Thank you! That’s a GREAT tip! And thanks for reading! I hope it continues to be enjoyable….
You seem to have made some progress in Japanese now, haven’t you?
Not much- but my pronunciation is better…