Confused

Women confuse me. Japanese women confuse me more. Individual Japanese women confuse me the most.

I have one co-worker, we’ll call her Yuki (Not her real name), who confuses me greatly.

She’s about 25 and is somewhat new to teaching. Shortly after she came to this school a year and a half ago I heard her say she enjoyed foreigners and liked to experience foreigner culture in Japan. So, last year I invited her to a foreigner/Japanese Halloween party my company was having. It was a bust, but it seemed to be OK. We had dinner a few times as well last fall/winter. Everything was strictly platonic and it seemed we meshed fairly well. I bought her a CD for Christmas as I thought we were friends.

Things got kind of weird sometime in December and have stayed odd since. She became fairly distant, always coming up with excuses not to do something if I’d ask to go snowboarding or eating. She also went from being pretty friendly at work to being rather distant. I used to get an おはよう   “ohayou” (good morning in a casual/close manner. Maybe ‘mornin’) from her but recently I don’t even get the full on おはようございます (GOOD MORNING), which is verbotten in Japan. I only get a grumpy look.

Today I have no class and was searching for a class to go watch to fill up an hour. Yuki had a class in her 5th hour block that would have been perfect to join. So, I asked her if I could come in and watch. Here’s a bit how the conversation went:

Me: “What are you doing for 5th hour?”

Yuki: “Umm.. why?”

Me: “Oh, I just want to come and watch class if that’s ok.”

Yuki: “We have a test. A test.”

Me: (hint: I had already asked the kids and KNEW they didn’t have a test) “Whaaa? No you don’t. You’re lyin’ aren’t you, tease.”

Yuki: “Test. We have a test.”

Me: “Really? Are you sure?”

Yuki: “Test. We have a test.”

Some kid somewhere behind me: “Teacher, we don’t have a test.”

Yuki: “SHHH! Shut up.”

 

I left the room after that. Now is it just me or is this just plain bizarre? I used to think the issue was the old “a girl liked you, you didn’t reciprocate feelings, and now she’s going to treat you like ass” routine. But now I’m starting to think Yuki is simply a crabby, unstable person. I keep wondering if it’s something I did or should have done differently. I don’t know any more.

So, that’s my Friday. Other than that I caught a cold last night, my first one this year. I had 1 or 2 very minor ones before which disappeared before they even really began.

Have a good weekend. I will have a new drama review coming soon. Hopefully I’ll get a little more blogging done starting in December once graduate school application season is over.

New School Year

As I stated in a recent post, spring in Japan signals change and new beginnings. It’s for this reason I suspect that new school year begins during the first week of April. In fact, many contracts (oh, the contracts in Japan) start around April. It seems to be a pretty common time for changeover throughout the country.

Teachers in a Japanese school change in the end of March and beginning of April. While some may move before the date, all teachers must report to their new schools on April 1st. Japan has a weird system of teacher placement. The school system in Japan is overseen federally and then divided by prefecture. Teachers have absolutely no say in where they will work or in what position with a few exceptions. Specially licensed teachers teaching at a junior high may stay in that certain field. However, their placement is still not their choice. For example, there is a teacher here who used to teach English at junior high. Had she wanted, she could have choose to remain an English teacher, only moving schools.

There is no set time frame when teachers will move to a different school. There are some time frames one might come to see as normal, but they are still far from set. New teachers will get 1-3 years at their first school. After this they might get another 3 year stint somewhere again. They will then be set into the merry-go-round of the system where the length of time is completely random. Of the teachers who left after last year the four with whom I interacted the most had years of 4, 6, 7, 8 at this school. It is rare to get above 6 or 7, and extremely rare to enter the double digits.

Furthermore, not every teacher is licensed in Japan. Or, I should say not every teacher is fully licensed. Some hold a partial license that allows them to teach but does not enter them into the system. I’m a little fuzzy on this system but from my understanding these teachers are allowed to teach at schools but receive less pay, do not build up a pension, and generally move schools every 1-2 years. I’m told because of the constant moving and bad pay it’s a very stressful life.

Speaking of licenses, the Japanese teaching one is different. There seems to be very little emphasis placed on learning how to teach. This is instead taught as an on-the-job skill. From what I’ve noticed students (prospective teachers) do only a few weeks of observation for “classroom hours”. For their final test they are required instead to show that they have a bunch of different skills to give to a school. What kind of skills? They have to be able to swim a certain distance in a certain time, they have to exhibit a certain proficiency in at least one instrument, they have to be able to run a certain distance in a certain time, they may or may not have a kanji and math test. Furthermore, I’ve yet to meet a teacher who isn’t specialized in something from college, which leads me to believe the way the system works is that you go to college like in the west, choosing what you want to learn (history for me, music for others etc.) and only at the very end of everything decide teaching is going to be your profession.

Many teachers don’t receive the full license because they can’t pass this test. For instance, they might not have a proficiency in a musical instrument.

So, the big kicker here is how teachers are chosen for what schools and for what they are chosen. As I said teachers have no say in this (I reserve the right to be wrong about this, as there might be some very back-room things going on where they have a LITTLE influence). Teachers find out they are leaving their current position and moving about 2 weeks before the end of the school year. They find this out by reading it in the paper. Yes, that’s right. The only way a teacher finds out they are moving is by reading it in the morning newspaper. They then get a few weeks to prepare mentally, during which time they are prohibited from telling students.

As for what class and position they will have in school, I believe this is partially random. The principle will decide, with some input from the teachers themselves, where teachers ultimately sit at school. I have some teachers who taught 6th grade one year and then 1st or 2nd the next. Music teachers, science teachers, and sometimes a math teacher for the upper classes are set positions. However, like everything else I believe the government helps decide this for them as well. I say this because there is one teacher here who prefers to be a music teacher but is “stuck” being a normal teacher. From what I understand it’s just that she got placed as a normal teacher and not a music teacher. Bad luck. Maybe next time.

The education system in Japan is mandatory only through junior high. High school is optional. Teachers (at least in Nagano prefecture) are eligible for either post when being assigned a new position. I have many teachers currently who used to teach at junior high in their last position. I can’t imagine how odd that must be to teach 9th grade one year and 1st the next. How is this even a good system? These require two completely different skill sets.

So there you have it, the quick, dirty run-down of the new school year shuffle. It’s not a perfect system nor the system I would choose to run, but it’s the way it is.

Non Holiday Post

Yeah, I know I said I was going to write-up a post on the recent holiday here in Japan.  However, things have been very complicated and busy with an end-of-the-year project I’m trying to do with the 6th graders and I’ve had almost no time to study kanji or write-up a post the last 2 weeks.  Yes, I suppose I could write one up during the evening….

I’ve decided the ju jitsu blog will be moved to a new blog.   I’ll provide a link when I start it up.  My ju jitsu life has been on hiatus the past month (previously mentioned) so there’s been nothing to post except some gained weight and frustrations.

The good news is I feel healthy now, it’s the start of a new school year AND spring, and most importantly I have some motivation to start hitting the mats again: looking good at my local mountain swimming stream.

I’m also thinking about starting up a video blog either alone or with the girlfriend.  I would be doing the blog in Japanese.  Essentially, I need a reason to use Japanese more often and it seems like a decent idea.  The idea stemmed from a YouTube channel of a young woman who moved to New York and is blogging about her life over there.  When she moved she spoke little English yet decided to do the blog in English.  I haven’t watched every episode but there is a marked difference between her first English posts and the later ones.  Unfortunately, I will likely not see similar results but the idea is the same.

I use very little Japanese while at work mostly because I’m supposed to be “teaching English” (see: getting kicked in the balls) to the kids.  Also, the teacher I interact with the most has some capability in English, which gives me an out.  Anyone trying to learn a second language knows that an out is the most dangerous thing there is.  When I go to the doctor’s, for example, my Japanese improves immediately simply because I know I can’t fall back to English to bail me out.  It’s amazing what that little mindset can do.

The challenge of doing any blog/video in Japanese is daunting but I think it will be something good.  Ability wise I think I can manage, although I’m sure it will be in horrible Japanese and quite choppy throughout.  In many ways I resemble Japanese students and their use of English.  My knowledge of Japanese, while not master-level, is fairly strong.  I can sit down and write out a decent email without much problem.  However, because I speak so little my speaking is very stuttered.  It takes a while to search for what I want to say and how to say it.  Plus, I drop words a lot.  I’ve talked about this before; part of it is my personality and part of it is lack of practice.

I’m far too shy to go chat up random Japanese people at the local bars, which is really the best way to get good fast.

Getting over looking like an idiot and putting it online is another matter.  The funny thing is that when Japanese people speak English, no matter how bad, I never think how stupid they look or bad they are, I just think how well they are doing and how much effort it takes them, which is inspiring.

In this light we should never really be afraid of learning anything.  Yeah, we might feel like we look stupid but the fact is everyone has been there at some point.  When I first started ju jitsu I couldn’t do any of the basic movements.  Shrimping!?  WTF is that!?  “Oh, well you move your head one way and your hips the other way while pushing off one leg and the opposite shoulder.”  It sounds as complicated as it is at first.  Now, however, I’m a speed shrimper and can lap the gym with ease.  I see new white belts that struggle to do these simple moves and it always reminds me of where I was at one point and not how stupid they look.  When I see new learners of Japanese make mistakes with “my name is..” or something easy I just think back to the days when I only knew how to say “yes, sir!”

I think we all have this fear of looking weird or foolish when first learning something.  I think even the most natural teachers can admit that the first day of teaching they were a bit self-conscious.  This seems natural.  Humans are programmed genetically to care about their image toward their peers.  You can’t attract the other cave-mate if the rest of the group thinks you’re a bumbling idiot.  And yes, some people are just jerks and will take every chance they can get to make fun of you.  What everyone needs to remember is that we were all babies at one point, figuratively and literally.  We all had a time when the only thing we could do was crap on ourselves and then cry about it afterward.  Don’t let that stop you from learning how to walk.

Japanese Comic Strip

So, I found this little comic strip about teaching English in Japan.  It’s pretty accurate and gives a realistic view of coming over to Japan out of the blue to teach some English.  Unlike manga and anime, which pretty much give you a fantasy view of Japanese culture, this one gives a completely authentic view of life as a foreigner in Japan.  This also means it’s not as action packed as manga and anime.  Still, I think people will enjoy it.

The comic currently has around 90 “pages” to it.  It’s a bit short but the authors add a new page every week.  My favorite part is that after each episode there is usually a comment by one of the authors giving a brief backstory to the segment. 

Check it out.  Enjoy.

Warning:  Some of the language is vulgar.  As I said, it’s an authentic strip. 

http://www.teachenglishinjapan.ca/

Hakuba Trip

For those of you who don’t know, snowboarding is big in Japan.  Actually, both skiing and snowboarding are fairly big in Japan, but snowboarding seems to be all the hype these days.  From what I can figure out, skiing is the traditional winter activity most of the adults in Japan grew up doing.  Did I mention yet Japanese people love them some tradition?  So, there are still a lot of skiers out on the hills, including many 4 year olds that look like they could do a slalom run at the olympics.

There’s another thing Japanese people love them some of too, however:  being hip.  Really, this pertains to the youth of the country but boy is this allure strong.  Many youth are desperate to appear cutting edge cool all over Japan.  In Tokyo, they have taken this to a near-syndrome like addiction.

Which explains this, I guess.

Don’t even get me started on double eyelid surgery.

Sometime in the recent past snowboarding caught on and now tons of teenagers and 20 somethings can be seen taking to the slopes many nights of the week and on weekends wearing snow pants around their knees, beanies that seem to mimic rap videos from 1998, and for the girls giant fake eyelashes that you have to weave your way around while going down the hill. There are many TV commercials that include snowboarding as part of the ad for no reason other than it makes the ad exciting or cool. I guess the fact that snowboarding is fun as hell doesn’t hurt to add to the number of participants.

Because of all this love for winter sports, and the close access of good ski resorts, people in Japan are keen to spend their weekends travelling the country for some good skiing or snowboarding fun. Perhaps the biggest place for this is a place called Hakuba.

Hakuba is located in the northern part of Nagano prefecture and hosted parts of the 1998 Nagano games. The name is actually the name of the tiny village as Hakuba hosts something like 10+ ski resorts. It has some of the most challenging runs in the country and is also a great place for novices to come to learn how to ski or snowboard. It’s also a very popular destination for foreign visitors to come for a skiing vacation. From what I’ve heard there are many people who will travel to Hakuba from Europe just for the weekend to get in some skiing. Nuts.

This past weekend I tagged along with one of my 5th grade teachers, his family, and a few of his friends for a trip to Hakuba. We stayed in a nice little bed-and-breakfast type place with a friendly older couple who ran it. I guess it’s called a “pension”, a name that is widely used throughout Europe and other parts of the world, or so I read. I’ve never heard of a “pension” before in my life so I am thinking the word is not used in America. I was a bit confused about what this whole pension deal was and had to do a bit of googling to find out what type of place we were headed to.

Somehow the guy knew all about Minnesota sports teams. He even knew about the American Football team and their current season. Needless to say, I was a bit shocked at that.

My teacher had said his daughter was really excited about the opportunity to speak English with a real living foreigner. I originally thought she was a University student studying English but it turned out she was a high school student who had English classes. So, her English level wasn’t quite as good as I was expecting, but it was certainly better than I thought it would be for a high school student. Either way, she ended up being far too shy to converse much on Saturday. Eh, that’s expected. On Sunday she gave snowboarding a try and as she was busy trying not to break her tailbone we spoke primarily in Japanese. Luckily, as I helped demonstrate a few of the basics she warmed up a bit and seemed to be much more open to talking to me by Sunday afternoon. This included doing away with English altogether and just speaking Japanese to me, which I really didn’t mind.

Another notable standout was one of the teachers that came with. She teaches P.E. at an elementary school a bit south of my town but still in the same valley. Her personality is quite unlike most Japanese people. She’s animated, talkative, loud (even though she barely had a voice due to a 3 week long cold), very sporty, and even a bit butch. Also, at 29 years old she’s single, which alone is just about enough to boggle many a Japanese person’s mind. She was the snowboard master and ended up teaching Yumi (teacher’s daughter) and Miyuki (another teacher who came with) for their first snowboarding lesson.

It ended up being a great weekend. One of the things I really want to do while I’m here is spend my time around Japanese people who don’t know English, and I got to do that a bunch on this trip. I got to learn many a good Japanese word, some youthful slang, and recognized some more guyish speakisms I’ve probably heard a bunch but have just now caught on to.

The only downside to the trip was that I took a few big spills. One, which I ended up landing on my shoulder and ribs, was somewhat bad. It was my first snowboarding fall that had me “unnhhh” as I hit, groan as I slowly rolled to my back, and then scoot off to the side to lay there and wonder how long before I feel like getting up again. Ironically, it happened on one of the flatter parts of the entire mountain. In fact, every one of my falls happened on flat areas, indicating that I need to practice 2 things much more: going straight (which apparently is a big problem for many people on a snowboard), and turning while moving slowly. The only problem I had with Hakuba was that some of its runs were very narrow. Think 10 feet narrow. On one side you had the hill/mountain wall, on the other side a drop that basically was the side of the hill/mountain. I have no idea how far down the drops were. I didn’t want to find out. You can see where not being able to turn, even though it was on flatter portions where I struggled, would be a problem.

Anyway, that was Saturday. It’s now Wednesday and my shoulder is still sore. So, this means that once again I’ve missed ju jitsu and fallen out of any rhythm I tried to establish. This is a frustrating trend.

More “Is Japan For Me?” Stuff.. And Stuff.

I  have a bunch to cover so this might be a multiple post day.  Or there might be a string of posts the next few days, which will hopefully result in a little traffic to my insignificant blog.

This weekend was Christmas Setup Weekend (Monday included).  We set up the tiny Christmas tree last night.  It was the girl’s first time ever decorating a Christmas tree.  The idea, in theory, was for me to cook some spaghetti and for us to decorate together while it cooked, all while listening to nice Christmas music.  The reality was, however, me running back and forth between cooking, taking pictures, and making sure Christina Aguilera songs weren’t popping up while the girl became so entranced with decorating she forgot about the “together” part of everything.  Yes, my main contribution to decorating the christmas tree was plugging in the lights.  Still, it was a really great night and I was able to recreate to some extent a feeling of Christmas in a country that completely lacks anything other than a cursory knowledge of the holiday.

Pictures will follow soon.

This got me thinking about a followup or two on the Japan FAQ.

Q: How different is Japan?  Will I adapt easily?

First, let me state an anecdote or two.  Now, there are those who claim that Japan really isn’t that different than *insert western country here*.  I beg to differ.

First, see above.  Imagine a country where almost everyone you meet has never put up a single Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Easter etc. decoration in their life.  Heck, you can easily find people who have never seen a movie where people decorate a Christmas tree.  Obviously, this is just a holiday.  However, the simple fact is in the west we live in a world where there are a ton of shared experiences.  Many of these don’t exist in Japan.  Live somewhere in the north and associate winter with shoveling your driveway?  Most Japanese people don’t even have a driveway.  They park in an extended area of their garden, which is almost always in front of the house between the gate entrance and the front entrance.  And it’s public property, which means anyone can stroll through without being considered rude. (In theory.  In practice I haven’t seen this done too much).  Japanese people who live in apartments might associate winter with everyone going out at 7 am on a Sunday morning and shoveling the parking lot together.  For the record, I never plan on partaking in this tradition.

Have you ever gone over to a friend’s house, stopped at the door, extended your hand and used either the doorbell or knocked?  Many Japanese people (delivery men included) don’t bother knocking.  See, the entrance to your apartment/house, otherwise known as “no shoes beyond this point” spot, is also considered public property.  It’s not out of the ordinary to have someone open up your door and yell to see if you’re around.  The point here being that commonplace shared experiences might not be shared.  Even if this is trivial like knocking it extends to many things in life.  BBQing brats, hotdogs, and hamburgers out on the grill with friends.  Not here.  Going to the pool and going down the big slide as a kid.  Not here.  Take several of these and you start to feel like a fish out of water.

Today I watched a video with the kids.  A Mr. Bean Christmas video.  He plays with the manger scene and toys around with baby Jesus and the animals.  So, I asked the teachers if they knew who the baby was.  No one knew.  I said “Jesus”.  Still, no one knew.  So, imagine being in a place where it’s difficult to find someone who knows who Jesus is or what he looks like in various forms.  Different.

The point here is that it is quite different.  It’s not a bad different, just one that you might feel a bit isolated.  This is a big reason people stay put in the dreaded English Bubble. (see below)

You can adjust.  You will adjust.  It takes time.  It also comes and goes in terms of enjoying it or not enjoying it.  The main thing is to immerse yourself as much as possible but as comfortably as possible.  If you’re afraid of/not strong at swimming don’t jump into the deep end immediately.  Sometimes you have to wade toward the deep end, possibly while wearing an embarrassing ducky floaty. 

For the record most Japanese girls at a beach wear a floaty while walking around on the beach.  They take it off when in the water.  To them it’s neither embarrassing nor odd to wear one when walking around.

Q: What is the English Bubble?

The English Bubble is the fat kid that keeps popping your ducky floaty with a pin every time you get near the deep end because he’s jealous you’re progressing and he’s not. 

It’s impossible to live in Japan, heck possibly anywhere English isn’t a native language, and not hear about the English Bubble.  Let me rephrase that.  It’s impossible not to hear about it provided you aren’t immersed completely inside the bubble.  Essentially, The Bubble is what keeps many foreigners from progressing in their Japanese ability or be unaware of many Japanese customs or events.  The basic premise is that you surround yourself with other English speakers in an attempt to feel more at home. 

As odd as it might seem I’ve met numerous people who have lived in Japan 3,4,5 or more years and barely know more than the basics.  This is because their day-to-day life is enveloped by English. 

Whether or not The Bubble is a good thing is up to each individual person.  What’s important is to be aware it exists and what the disadvantages and advantages to it are. 

Q: I’ve heard Tokyo is expensive.  Is this true?

I wouldn’t know.  I don’t care about Tokyo and really don’t know much about it. 

I think I’m going to end every Q&A blog on Tokyo.  In my “research” to figure out common questions and what other people were saying about the subject I was unable to find more than 1 or 2 non Tokyo-based blogs about life in Japan.  This infuriates me to no end.  The perception that Tokyo = Japan is rampant to anyone who doesn’t know much about Japan.  But the fact that people actually living in the country still make the same mistake in thinking is bewildering.

I’ll reiterate something I said last time.  Tokyo is not Japan.  If you plan to spend any significant amount of time in Japan there’s an extremely high likelihood your life will be far removed from Tokyo.  It’s important to realize that before you come and understand what that means.  Things like “Japan is the most technologically advanced nation on earth” stop applying.  Or anything you read on the internet that starts with “girls in Japan wear…” or “many Japanese people like to do…..”  or anything similar.  That’s not saying you won’t find those things around wherever you end up, but what happens in Tokyo is often times confined to Tokyo.

And yes, Tokyo is expensive for a nation that is already ungodly expensive in my experience.  However, I’ve also found the cheapest things and best deals in Tokyo.  If you walk into a store and there’s more than 2 foreigners around or 5 Japanese teenagers chances are it’s going to be pricey.

Thinking in Language

No matter how much I advance in Japanese I still make mistakes at the most basic levels.  It’s rather embarrassing.  This happened just recently when I couldn’t even say “it’s warm in the school” correctly.  However, let’s dissect this a minute.

I think what gets lost on many people is that you tend to see the world around you through the filter of your native language.  This is what makes learning a new language so important, fun, and difficult.  Think to yourself about where you are, what you’re doing and the immediate environment around you.  Just take 10 seconds or so to do so.  Got it?

Now, come to the stunning realization that approximately 99.7% of the world’s population thinks about that room differently than you do.  (Based on ever-accurate Wikipedia information that about 330 million people speak English as their native language).  No wonder why we can’t get along with each other successfully.   A speaker of a different language evaluates the room similar to you but might process the information differently.

I used to have a supervisor that loved to remind us that a certain Native American language has 27 different ways to say “go”.  It depends on if you’re moving toward or away from your own house, by whom you are accompanied, what time of day it is, and other factors.  Do you think they process “I went to the store” in the same way as you do?  Do you think “going to the store” has the same implications to that person as it does to you? 

Back to me to explain this a little more:  In English you would say “it’s warm in the school” to indicate that the inside of the building and its surrounding air is a comfortable temperature.  Alternatively, you might have opted for the simplified “it’s warm in here”.  If you wanted to indicate the building itself is warm (as in the walls, etc.) you would simply say “the school is warm”.  Unless my English abilities have eroded immensely I believe we can all agree that’s accurate.

Now, in Japanese you would indicate the temperature in the school simply by saying “as for the school, it’s warm”. (Translating Japanese directly is awful, but that’s the closest we’ll get)  I’m still at that point where I think in English and translate to Japanese, so in my head I was searching for “in the school” when it not only was unneeded but incorrect.  This is one of the most difficult things about learning a new language – overcoming the way you internalize language.  Likewise, a Japanese person would say something like “outside is cold today”.  They have no concept of the English all-purpose “it”, as in “it’s cold outside”. 

Another common example comes when speaking about eating animals.  In English there is a HUGE difference between “I like horse” and “I like horses”.  In Japanese, both are the same exact thing, “as for horses, I like them.”  A Japanese person’s way of internalizing the language means there’s no difference between liking horse and liking horses.  If you want to talk about horse meat then talk about horse meat, not the animal horse.  This also means they get a kick out of it when I say “I ate chicken last night” in Japanese.  What I’m actually saying is I grabbed a live chicken, bit off its head and went to town gorging myself. 

I read an article in a journal about 2 years ago.  It was written by a Japanese-American girl (why is everyone under  my age a “girl” or a “boy”?) who was born in the U.S. to Japanese parents, moved to Japan in her teens, moved back to America, and was at the time of the article working and living in Japan.  In short, her story went something like this:

Her Japanese friends knew her as one person, her foreigner friends as another person.  When she would go out with the two groups at the same time her Japanese friends would always have comments afterward about what they noticed.  Her Japanese friends explained that as she would speak English with the foreigners she would appear to be a different person entirely.  Suddenly, the reserved, somewhat shy girl would come alive with confidence, boldness and an overall aura of “gaijin power”.  She never gave much thought to this until she noticed her English-speaking friends making the reverse statement.  What she came to realize is that she was adapting aspects of the culture of each language she would speak, while she was speaking them.  In Japanese, overloaded with its focus on different differential relationships and such she was polite, shy, reserved and quiet.  In English, with its unilateral treatment of everyone and everything, she was the opposite. 

This is a larger issue (the relationship between language and culture) but the basic point is that the way you see the world is largely defined by the language you speak. 

The other day I was trying to teach “bless you” to the kids.  My helper teacher was obsessed with trying to figure out the translation of “bless you”.  I told her it was just something you say after someone sneezes; it’s polite but carries no real meaning.  At least not anymore.  She would have none of it.  To her there must be a meaning.  This is because everything in Japanese has a meaning.  Even onomatopoeia has a meaning.  She was sure it meant the Japanese equivalent of “get well soon”, which I insisted was most definitely not the translation.  To Japanese people a sneeze means one has the cold. 

To stretch the point a bit but illustrate what I’m getting at:  All words in Japanese have a meaning.  This is how they see the world.  Therefore, everything has meaning.  A sneeze means you have a cold.  In English many words have no meaning but are place holders (think “ouch”).  So, “sometimes a rose is just a rose”, right?  A sneeze is just a damn sneeze, saying “get well” comes off as presumptuous and ridiculous.

Just some food for thought.

 

Previous Older Entries