I’m fine, thank you. And you?

I’ve been treated like anything from a burden to a joke to a celebrity in the two months since I’ve set foot in Japan.

It’s no surprise; English is cool. And it’s abundant.
For a country that’s 99% (.999?) native citizens, they’ve adopted English like the back of an American hipster adopts Chinese. Just look at the lines – cool, right? But don’t worry about understanding it.

Language is complex. There are rules, sure, but bending and breaking rules tends to give us as much poetry as it gives us nonsense. Language can be beautiful. Chances are, some of your favorite memories involve language.

  • Chanting the chorus in sync with a band in concert
  • Turning over the last page of a book, just to flip it back to the first and remember how it all began again
  • A late-night conversation that turned into an early-morning conversation

It’s not hard to imagine. They’re wonderful and priceless. Words become art.

Until it’s a on your test, of course. And if you’re going to a Japanese university, English will definitely be on the entrance exam. Actually, beginning this year, more class hours are spent teaching English to students than any other subject. And that’s what it is, a test subject. It’s important, and should be perfected. 

Image

So enter the Assistant Language Teacher (henceforth known as ALT). We’re brought here for many jobs. I’ve been asked to recite sentences, to help plan lessons, to become involved in the club… I’ve also been told that just living here is part of my job of showcasing internationalization. Just existing in my town is enough to send a group of schoolgirls giggling down the hallway or cause a Japanese teacher to clench up like they’re back in junior high and it’s English time

I’ll probably not ever admit to knowing more about English grammar than any of my partner Japanese teachers. Their pronunciation is definitely enough to get by as well, especially since the tests are all reading and writing.

And yet, here I am. A little bit of art to break up the grey scale texts.
And here’s the line that’s been dancing around in my head while writing, summed up neatly in a Peanuts comic as many of life’s details are:
Page 40, Lesson 12.
Schroeder says to Lucy: “Studying poetry spoils the poem.”

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3 responses to “I’m fine, thank you. And you?”

  1. BeardedGlass says :

    It’s quite hard to explain all the confusing exceptions to a Japanese, since it just comes naturally for us. For example, I was asked to explain why “Go home” doesn’t have a “to” in it. Like “Go to school” or “Go to work”

    And why some places have “the” before them like “Go to the hospital” or “Go to the park”

    I don’t want to make up my own grammar rules just to look knowledgeable, so I’ve been resorting to “Hmm, I’m sure heh.” a lot, to the point that the JTE stopped asking “why?” and just asks “Does this sound natural to you?” haha

    • ananimasu says :

      The “does this sound natural” angle I get most often. Like I said before, my JTEs are most likely better with grammar rules and names than myself, but if I can scrounge up a few examples of what is and isn’t okay in the situation before they return to work then I’ll try to do that.

      I’m refreshing my knowledge of Japanese counters, and I found Tofugu put it well when they wrote on the subject:

      “There are… a lot of exceptions. Believe it or not, though, there are a few patterns to all this madness. I’m not sure if learning the patterns is actually any faster than just learning the counters and exceptions.”

      • BeardedGlass says :

        I think a faster way of learning those exceptions and special rules is to read novels. Speaking is still a big hurdle for the Japanese, especially since they don’t have the avenue to do that here in Japan. So I think another way of applying what hey know is to read novels. The more interesting the better. That’s what I did anyway hehe.

        I started reading children’s stories in Japanese and made my way up. I’m still not fluent, but I can at least “think in Japanese” so there’s less lag time whenever I try to have a conversation with a Japnese person. No need to translate my English thoughts haha.

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