Monday, December 20, 2010

Learning a Language

I came to Japan to learn Japanese. It's as simple as that. Sure, the cultural aspect is important too. Ultimately, though, I came here to learn the language. When I arrived, I could barely greet someone. Now, I can hold my own when introducing myself (in a very limited manner), I can write my name in katakana and kanji, and I can have drunk conversations with random businessmen in izakayas.

This post, though, isn't about learning Japanese.

Instead, I want to talk about English. Every day, I become more fluent in my own language. By teaching English, I'm learning about it. For example, in Japanese, "I must," and "I have to," both roughly translate to the same thing. In English (at least for Americans), we don't really say that we "must" do something unless it's extremely necessary. Before teaching that grammar point, I had never really thought about it. If you say, "I must eat soon," it sounds a bit melodramatic. It's like saying if you don't eat, you'll die.

Still, my English is no where near perfect. Far from it. While in Japan, there are still times when I've had to ask certain people to repeat what they've said... even though it's entirely in English. More often than not, I still don't understand after the second time (due to accent, slang, or inebriation). After the third time of not understanding, I smile silently and nod my head.

(Based on actual conversations... sort of)
"Let's go for a cheeky pint."
"Is the food any good there?"
"Aye, the karage is nice and there's a really fit bartender that works there."

Although I'm in Japan, I've been learning a lot about English from other countries.

The first time I heard the word, "fit," I thought the person was "in shape" or "cut," as I would have used it in California. Then I got really confused when someone used to to describe a girl (which I guess could make sense). After hearing it used several more times, I realized that, "fit," meant "hot." So that girl who I thought was muscular at the time, was really just "hot" all along...

Next is "nice." For me, people are nice. A formal dinner could be nice... though it'd be more the setting that's nice, not the food itself. In this example, I'm not even sure I used the word "nice" correctly. However, I've been hearing it be used interchangeably when I would have used "good." So what's "good food" to me is "nice food." I found it confusing at first that food can be friendly, but it sort of makes sense now.

"Slag," I suppose just means some variation on "slut" but I may be wrong...

As for what makes a pint, "cheeky," I'm still not 100% sure...

However, I could go for a cheeky pint right about now...

Yet, despite our differences in English, we are all fluent Janglish. We'll go out for a tabehoudai, talk about what we're doing for our nenkyuu, count our money in "man," and kanpai at the start of an enkai.

As a great book once said, "Communication is important. You have to speak English. But you don't have to speak perfect English."

This sums it up best. Being in Japan has really opened me to a new horizon of learning English. Now, I must apply it to learning Japanese.

If not... well, at the very least, I know not to call it a "fanny pack" anymore...

1 comment:

  1. Well you certainly did a good job getting us all organized at karaoke! You'll do fine at learning Japanese.