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Conversations in Japanese

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Can’t sleep so I’m sitting on my bed in the dark, thinking and typing this post in the iPad. Maybe I just shouldn’t sleep at all tonight…

I was reading this and it reminded me of when this teenage boy (well, he looked teenage to me) in Disneyland asked me to help take a photo of him and his girlfriend in front of Cinderella’s castle. I didn’t say much, except “ah, hai!” (“oh, sure!”) and “kore ga ii desu ka?” (“is this [picture] ok?”)

Thinking about that made me think of the few other instances in which I was forced to use what measly Japanese I know during my trip…

The longest conversation I had was probably the one with the old Japanese lady who was staying in the same dorm as me in Kyoto. And until now I have no idea how on earth I managed that conversation. I can’t remember everything now but it included the standard stuff: where are you from? Malaysia. What are you doing in Kyoto? I’m on holiday. (I remember forgetting the word for “holiday” here and stumbling through some other general adjectives to make myself understood. Haha) You’re here alone? No, with friends…

This same old lady caused a bit of confusion and awkwardness in the dorm one night when she approached the two Caucasian ladies in the dorm and said something about the air conditioning. I ended up coming down from my bunk bed to see what the issue was because they clearly didn’t understand her and she didn’t understand them and, well, my meagre grasp of Japanese is better than none at all I guess. Turns out she wasn’t feeling well and wanted to turn up the aircon temperature. It was actually quite warm in there and the temperature was already set to 22C. The two Caucasian ladies were quite horrified at the thought of turning it up and I was too. I’d have preferred to turn it down, not up. But the old Japanese lady wanted it to be 25 or 26, which quite alarmed the rest of us. I felt sorry for her, but it really was warm in the room and no one really liked the thought of having the temperature higher than it already was. In the end we put the temperature to 23, but not more. The old lady seemed rather annoyed by that but, well, that’s the nature of a shared dorm…

Then there was the instance with the two old ladies at the bus stop. They remarked on how stylish Yang’s pink kimono was and I had to help be a translator – as far as I could manage. That one wasn’t too long. They commented on her kimono and obi, said it was very stylish, and asked where we were from. They said some other stuff too but I can’t remember what else. Oh! They also said that the kimono Danny was wearing suited him. Haha

I think only once did I voluntarily initiate a Japanese conversation and that was in the afternoon at Disneyland. I wanted to know whether the Jubilation parade route would go right in front of the castle steps and chose to test myself by asking a passing staff member in Japanese whether the parade (route) would be there: “excuse me, will the Jubilation parade be here?” …That isn’t really an accurate way of phrasing it since if this had been in Disneyland Anaheim I’d have said, “Excuse me. Does the Jubilation parade route go this way?” But she understood anyway and told me that no, the parade route would go around (the open space), not directly in front of the castle entrance. ( If you look at Disneyland’s map it’s easier to understand – there’s a big roundabout of sorts in front of the castle… Ah, I should illustrate that. But never mind for now.) I thanked her and went to find myself a good spot to sit down. I wondered if my very basic sentence gave away the fact that I wasn’t fluent. Or did it not? She did respond completely in Japanese…

The problem I have is that I usually understand the questions and comments but if and when put on the spot, half the vocabulary in my head just disappears and I suddenly can’t produce anything sensible unless it’s simple stuff. It’s as if the shock of having to suddenly say something cuts off all access to that part if my brain – until the conversation is over.

Oh good I’m finally yawning. Time to attempt to catch some shuteye…

2 Comments

  1. I momentarily thought “shuteye” was a Japanese word for sleep, pronounced shu-tay-yay or something. (haha)

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