Monday, February 06, 2006

My inability to speak Japanese.....

Back at work today but I feel tons better.
Not perfect, but definitely better.

I canceled my Monday class again and Ji and I had a long soaking bath together. I wanted to stay longer but she wanted out so I kept the water in, put on the bath lid to keep the heat in, and returned to the bath later to soak my blaaaassss away.
Felt truly wonderful!!
I made sure I had a huge class of water with me while I was in the bath. I have a tendency to get too warm and then feel very lightheaded. I actually avoid hot baths if I can. You will never find me in a Japanese ensen (spa) because they are tooooo damn hot and I get uncomfortable very quickly.
Last night I really needed to soak and sweat though. Felt lightheaded after but I also felt much better.
Li had a bad stomach all day yesterday but also felt much better this morning.
I think Ji got a small bought of this ughy stuff last night but she was very happy and energetic when I left this morning so no worries.

Now for the main post.

So we are leaving Japan soon.
Not sure when, but I am suspecting somewhere around May. Dad and Myrna are planning to come out just before we leave and if our timing works out they will go with us to China and meet the Li family.
This would be very cool.
Mom met them this summer, so now it is dad’s turn.

I have learned tons about this country, although I have not learned it all.
There is one thing I really regret.

I can’t speak Japanese.

Ok that is not entirely true.
I can speak very basic survival Japanese, but after six years you would think I had moved on far beyond the survival level. The problem is I haven’t.
Li speaks excellent Japanese and it boggles my mind the way he can switch so easily between three languages: Chinese, Japanese and English.
I heard that people who are good at math usually grasp languages faster because language is based on patterns. Well I absolutely suck at math and Li rocks at it. If this is true than we have a perfect case study right here.

My husband keeps snapping at me about my pathetic ability to speak Japanese, but I really have studied. I went to Japanese class twice a week for a year and then once a week for even longer. I have worked my way through many books. I can read hiragana and katakana no problem. I can even understand most of the stupid katakana, which are foreign words put into Japanese sounds. I can read hiragana no problem: I just can’t understand most of what I am reading. I have a fairly high level of kanji that I know because I memorized the art of kanji and think it is quite cool.

The problem is practice.

You would think that living in Japan I have all the practice that I need. Well you would be wrong.
I can literally go an entire day with out speaking one word of Japanese. I probably speak more to my daughter than to anyone else.

Lets take Sunday for an example.
Ji and I walked to the station and I bought a ticket from the automatic ticket machine. I got on the train and that was that. People made googly eyes at Ji but no one tried to talk to me.
I went to the Lush store and I said in Japanese:
-I want a facemask.

The girl immediately started to speak in soso English asking me about my skin type and what kind I wanted. She then proceeded to explain the different hand creams for me and recommended the nail care lotion for me. All in English.

Then I went to the Estee Lauder counter. I told the girl in Japanese:
-I need a new blush.
And she immediately started talking to me in quite good English about the colour I had before and what she recommended for me. Our conversation turned to lip-gloss and I bought a cool new gloss. They even put my name on the cap in nice script. This was all done in English.

The other day I was in the taxi and I was explaining to the guy in Japanese that he needed to turn left at Seiyu to get to my house. He turns to me and says in English:
-You will tell me where to turn right.
He told me he wanted to practice his English. He then proceeded to ask me the 20 questions about me to practice his English.

Now this does not happen to me all the time. In the supermarkets I need to speak Japanese but it is usually one simple sentence and then running after the clerk who is showing me where the candles are or what not. There is little to no conversation involved.

At work I am paid to speak English and everyone is supposed to try to speak English to me.

At the pub people come up to me and introduce them selves just so that they can practice their English. I am never given a chance to practice my Japanese. In fact when I mention to a group that I would rather every one speaks to me in Japanese, they usually laugh at me.

I have been thinking about this problem for a few days. This is not the norm for all English speaking people here. I have many friends who get frustrated on a very regular basis because they cant speak enough Japanese to get by in certain situations.

I have come to the conclusion that it is just me.

I am an English teacher, this is true, but I have been perfecting my ability to make people talk in my classes. My main goal with my students is not to speak perfectly but to just bloody speak. We work on the perfect later. Because of it I have developed this amazing ability to understand really, really bad English and people enjoy trying to talk to me.
It must be written on my face or something, because everyone I meet (basically) tries to talk to me in English.
I have a good ear and people seem relaxed with the idea of talking to me. They never get too embarrassed and always seem so proud of themselves after they talk to me. This is my job as an English teacher. Doesn’t help me learn Japanese though.

I have some wonderful friends here who speak to me in very easy Japanese and mix it with English and we have wonderful conversations. They try to help me understand but they also try to speak as much English as they can.

Now that I think of it, I get my most Japanese practice when I go to get my nails done or my haircut. Both of these girls have very, very limited English and I have to try to speak Japanese. So once every two months I see my hairdresser, and once every two weeks I get my nails done.
This is not enough practice but I cant afford to get my nails done once a week and I am trying to grow out my hair.


Today’s blessing:

- The wonderful heart warming giggle/laughter/squeals coming from my husband and daughter this evening when they were having a tickle fight.

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Posted by (Top)Andrea::2/06/2006 :: 26 Comments:

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