October 10, 2011

Wanting to Speak Japanese vs. Actually Doing It.

"Here Honey. It's loading up!" My husband proudly announces that he's remembered his password for Rosetta Stone, which we get free through the military. Since we learned that our PCS to Japan is official I've decided that I am going to learn to speak some Japanese using Rosetta Stone. Even if I can't speak perfectly, they'll respect me for putting in the effort right?

I sit down in front of the computer screen and click on Lesson 1, and my eyes immediately bug out of my head. Everything is in Japanese characters. . .

"Konnichiwa!" The voice says cheerfully. I dutifully repeat.

"KOH-NEE-CHEEE-WAHHHH!" I stutter struggling to get the inflection right. Oh boy. This is gonna be harder than I thought.

Eventually I get through lesson 2, and 3, and then I stop. I simply don't know how often I am going to announce to the restaurant that "The boy is eating!" in Japanese, which at this point is really the only thing I can say besides Hello, and Goodbye.

Fast forward to now. Here we are living in Japan. I have mastered 4 Japanese phrases with correct inflection, and they include, "Good Day", "Good bye", "Thank you very much", and "I'm sorry". The "I'm sorry" I learned after my son spilled an entire glass of coke at our favorite soba restaurant where the staff does not speak English, and to order our meal we pretty much just point to the pictures.

So my son tips over his glass and coke and ice go flying everywhere. All over the tatami mats next to our table, all over him, and the floor. And the snooty rich Japanese family next to us were giving me dirty looks and scooting their chairs as far away from us as possible even though ZERO soda had spilled in their direction. I quickly took out my phone and googled "I'm sorry" in Japanese because I had no clue, and it was clear that no one could speak English, or had the desire to speak to me in English.

Our waitress came over with a rag and I was literally on my hands and knees wiping up the spilled soda all the while repeating "Domo Sumimasen" (I'm very sorry) to anyone who even glanced in my direction. And while all of this is happening, my son is singing "Arigato, arigato!" - (thank you, thank you) - his ONLY Japanese word, and he uses it interchangeably as hello, good bye, and thank you.

We got a few sympathetic looks from another family who had a small child about my son's age, but the snooty family was still glaring at us, and I knew they were thinking, "Those damn Americans!" I realize that whether we like it or not, we are ambassadors for our country. This family has probably had negative experiences with Americans and thinks we're all like that. So in an effort to smooth things over, I whipped out my full arsenal of Japanese words.

I walk over to their table, "Domo sumimasen." I say as I point to the spilled glass of coke and my son. I grab my son's hand and then I say, "Sayonara." I bow slightly and we leave. And my son is still singing, "Arigato, arigato!"

Clearly I need to learn a little more of the language. And maybe teach my son what Arigato really means.


  1. Oh, gotta love moments like that! I give you lots of credit for going up to that family and speaking Japanese to them! I just would have run out of there as quickly as possible!

  2. Thanks! I was MORTIFIED at the time, but it's actually pretty funny.