The Offspring learned the first “alphabet” of the two Japanese versions in September while I sit still struggling to pronounce one syllable words with the prekindergarten version at month 8. I wax on at my Japanese teacher, pointing in her face with a calligraphy felt tip writing utensil,
” Your killin’ me Smalls. Talking- that’s a valuable skill. I don’t hand over a written list at the grocery store for someone to fetch.”
She doesn’t respond, she never does. She just sits in silence and stares me down, ignores the ink on my face, indifferent to my commentary on her teaching prowess and demands more attention on the correct stroke order for the “Se” sound. I swear Japanese music is pinging in the background from parts unknown as she gains the upper hand.
After I suffer the humiliation of “Sa, Si, Su, Se, and So,” on writing paper for the 5 and 6 year olds she teaches on Fridays, she graciously offers a retort from on high.
“If you can’t write it, you can’t pronounce it, if you can’t pronounce it, no one can understand it.” Damn Japanese and their logic.
“Well let’s go on to katakana I’m sick of hiragana I’M BORED!” I offer a compromise to which the enemy refuses to engage. Even though I suspect I’m playing this game alone, I attempt another move.
I use a combination of leaning forward to intimidate and the “thin lips” look which scares small children and misbehaving dogs, each showing her I have the power to get a teacher that will bend to my will.
Ahh- this awakens the bear. She likes to fight mano o mano. “You haven’t yet mastered Hiragana.”
“I CAN write- I’m just a slow reader.”
I can read and write well enough. Thus far, I haven’t been entered in to any Spelling B’s, and as far as I know, there aren’t any speed contests for sign or menu reading. The tug of war starts to pull me in her direction.
She puts down the homework assignment being prepared. “You are one of my most queer students.” Which I interpret as,”personality ridden, joyful, intellectually curious on things of interest to you..”
With that, she yanks the rope easily and I find myself on the ground with a mouth full of “Pa, pe and poo.”
When I ask Andretti-san to define “queer” he explains it as “weird.” I’ve been on the receiving end of many terms that would turn a Philly mobster pink; this I construe as a compliment to preserve my dignity.
I might be odd, but I’m all she’s got as many fled after the earthquake never to return for fear of radiation. What would she do without me? It must be the love of our game.
Or- and this is truly an awful thought- could she be one of life’s antagonists forcing me to where I wouldn’t otherwise go for my own benefit?
A few weeks ago, exhausted, avoiding the kitchen, I cheated on the domestic duties and ordered take out for the Clampitt family. I weakly attempted to order in Japanese, the polite Japanese cook fired back in English, suspicious of his skill, yet happy to oblige, I eventually ordered, “fried rice to go.” in English. Eventually, the cook bounced back handing me a bag filled with “five rice.” Five containers of white rice to go. Evil Sensei’s face magically appeared in the bag- looking up at me,”Ouisar-san, read the menu and point to the fried rice if you don’t want to talk. See why you must learn your characters!” Here’s a picture of Sensei just in case she shows up in a take out bag.
Not too long ago as I dragged the cooler out of the building I told the building receptionist, “My husband and I are going to a track meet.” She nodded reluctantly, a quizzical look on her face immediately indicating to a reader of body language,”You stepped in it.” Later I consulted Andretti-sensei who said,
“Perfect, except for the part where you said,’ My prisoner and I are going to a track meet.'” The receptionist probably thought “he” was chained within the cooler as it was the supersized version. “Husband” and “prisoner” are spelled similarly but pronounced differently. Subtle. Spouse thinks they’re interchangeable regardless of pronunciation.
The final nail in the coffin came from an unexpected source. My corner grocery store. The local place around the corner I walk to every day to get what I need for the day’s supplies. I asked Andretti-san to run by XXXXX and he fell out laughing. I assumed it was because of my pronunciation and asked for the correction. This happened several more times which is unusual for Andretti-san who normally doesn’t laugh at my Japanese.
“What is so funny about the way I say XXXXX?”
“When you mispronounce it sounds like a very dirty Japanese word!”
Apparently for lady parts.
So my conversations with my Japanese friends and neighbors have gone like this:
“Don’t you love lady parts?”
“Lady parts is so cheap, don’t you think?”
“I could just eat all the good stuff in lady parts”
“More men are eating in lady parts, don’t you think?”
“Do you do your bagging in lady parts?”
Sensei has won this round. But there will be another….
Note: Read Here The Daily Infographic posted a -well- infographic on the major languages and how each ranked in terms of learnability. See how the one your trying to learn- or speak- ranks…..Thanks to Andrea at ExPatWomen.com for tweeting! (Great web site by the way.