the nikku

reflecting on ESL/EFL and its relation to faith

Friday, January 09, 2009

Culture Shock in My Own Culture!

Last night in Tokyo I met a friend in Kichijyoji, then I ran back to the
short-termer's dinner at the Shibuya Outback. I was half an hour late -
the story of my adult life. I ran in and I was in a panic, everyone was
there and had already ordered. I had just gotten done with a 2 hour
Japanese conversation with my friend, so I didn't even look at the menu,
I just asked the waiter in Japanese what he recommended and I took that.
A relatively simple Japanese conversation. I didn't even think twice
about it.

The conversation after that went like this:

"NB, I wish I spoke Japanese as well as you."

"Well, I've been here for two years."

"Me too."

"Oh, well... I guess I need it more in the country."

Then I got all はずかしい (embarrassed) and 困ってる (didn't know what
to do). Where am I from again?

After more than two years here, I'm tired of the "Japanese level"
conversation. But I guess learning to deal with that - or rather
encourage some language ability - comes with the territory.

On that note, my opinion on Japanese is: if you're living in Japan, you
should learn some. It shows you're actually interested in the people and
that you care about them. And as well as you know someone in English,
with most people, you'll get to know them better in their own language.
And as an added bonus, it makes your everyday life in Japan easier.

---

On a cuter note, I was at fellow missionaries N and N-san's house. Mr. N
is American, Mrs. N is Japanese. I was speaking Japanese with Mrs. N.
Not because she's Japanese (she actually speaks English incredibly
well), just because that's the language the conversation started in.

On a side note, that's my general policy on which language to speak:
speak the language the conversation STARTED in unless one of you is
obviously misunderstanding.

Anyway, while we were talking in Japanese N's son, L-kun said to me in
English:

"Nick." (Japanese conversation continues) "Nick?" (Japanese conversation
continues) "Nick!"

"Yes?"

"Can you talk Japanese?"

"Yes, I can."

"Oh, me too."

The kid has a lot of heart for someone hardly starting kindergarten. It
was perhaps the most touching part of the trip.

In both situations, I wish I'd had more time to just be.

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