And cut me to the quick. For the last 8 months, Sensei has attempted with no results to teach me the building blocks of the Japanese phonics- the 46 Hiragana characters. I have resolutely and with great success blocked her attempts to impart this wisdom which would enable me to read signs, menus and most foreign words written in Japanese for several valid reasons. I hate practicing, I can’t remember the Hiragana for longer than three seconds after I’ve written the same character 50 times as the Hiragana must be exact- not “close”- and finally it’s boring. Jabbering on in a foreign language and finding success in piecing together a sentence with the structure a three-year old might employ is much more to my taste. My sensei, reserved, shy, and customarily willing to accommodate my schedule of tasks for the lesson, recently summarily blocked my move to evade the Hiragana lesson I had postponed for several weeks. Not only did she erect an obstacle, she hurled an insult.
“Ouiser-san- if you don’t learn Hiragana, Japanese people can’t understand your pronunciations. I only understand you because I am your teacher.” WHAT?
Me- “You mean I’ve been babbling for 8 months and no one has any idea what I’m saying?” Maybe that’s why cab drivers understand the Offspring giving directions but not me.
Ouiser- “Well- why didn’t you tell me?”
I’ve become the parent who answers the phone but the Japanese person on the other end asks to speak to the child in order to converse with someone understandable. Rapid fire flashbacks started to pop before my eyes as I recalled the millions of times I spoke the correct word, however, the recipient of my floundering Japanese looked back with sheer confusion or worse- dismay.
Sensei- “I’ve been trying to get you to learn but you won’t.” All teachers share a common characteristic, lazy students attempting to divert their attention with brown-nosing, offers of tea to soak up time, and lulling them into a conversation about non- language topics do not blind an experienced educator to the fact that the student is avoiding the subject to be learned. In a Japanese way- she had told me but I, having the cultural sensitivity of a bull charging through Pamplona, was oblivious to her subtle whacks at imparting the Hiragana wisdom of the ages.
Not to fear, my Sensei was more astute than I and recognized the need for a more juvenile approach to Hiragana edification. How best to teach a 46-year-old “Spirit is willing but flesh is weak” student, who tends to bore easily, is distracted by the smallest noise from the dishwasher, finds difficulty in sitting for an hour, and pretends at least once a month not to be home when Sensei knocks on the door? With this:
I can relate to “Yu” and might actually remember it now:
As would any kindergartener all forms of posterior related humor I find funny, therefore, I will never forget “Te,”
Hope for a perfect Japanese accent is within my reach thanks to my insightful Sensei and a new-found interest in Hiragana. Proof, yet again, that no matter what the age, study tricks and a good teacher are still keys to life long learning!