Monday, May 10, 2010

Language experiment!

I have been studying Japanese very seriously now for the last year. The first six months or so of our time in Japan was consumed with learning how to function in a foreign country, teach a new set of students, and everything else. Also, there were a variety of ways to study: different textbooks, classes, tutors, etc. It took awhile to figure out what worked for me.

I finally settled on Rosetta Stone, a computer based, immersion system. Both Joan and I find it effective, fun, and addictive. And along with the audio tracks to listen to while running or gardening, as well as a Iphone/Itouch flash card program to be able to review the material anywhere and anytime, it seems a perfect combination. We feel like we are learning boatloads.

However, all this formal Japanese makes me sound like a mentally disabled grandmother... "The cat is watching the fish." "They are reading a book in the library." And if someone tries to talk to me about something else besides what time the train arrives, I'm screwed.

So, I decided to take the plunge last night. There is a tiny izakaya (bar) up the road from us that we have been to a few times, a real hole in the wall. It is probably no more than 20 feet long, six feet wide, and has maybe 10 seats. They have always seemed friendly and entertained by the foreigner. My plan is to make it a weekly visit to drink a little sake or shochu and have to communicate in "real" Japanese for an hour or two.

Well, it was 110% of what I hoped it would be! Two of the locals made a spot for me between them and quickly poured me a drink from their own bottle. Within moments, I was struggling to explain who I was, where I come from, and what I do. Thank goodness for the photos on the Itouch! I quickly turned the tables and started asking them questions, which of course generated answers that I struggled to understand.

Hiryoki, an insurance company office worker, adopted me and made sure that my glass was never empty and that I was involved in the flow of conversation.

It helped that that woman working part time behind the bar spoke passable English, Spanish, and French, so she was able to help me out a little. If we didn't know the word in one language, we'd just through it in from another language, mid-sentence. My brain hurt, but it felt soooo good!

And this morning my brain hurts, as well as my stomach. Why? Because I learned that I should not drink shochu (Japanese rice "vodka") with Japanese business men at their pace. It'll kill me....

Hiryoki invited me to come back next Monday and drink with him. I'm going, but I swear I'm not going to drink as much shochu this time...

1 comment:

Joan Lambert Bailey said...

Or maybe just drink a glass of water with each glass of shochu? Omizu, kudasai!