Friday, June 02, 2006

New-Born Fresh Gaijin

Coping with the other.
We all do it.
We all remember hating it.
Except that it was so exciting ...
We loved it.

My grade school French has long since deserted me
reminds me:
Less than a month in Japan:
I stood, totally confused, on the platform of the Yokoama station looking for the Tokyo train. I was trying to find Ginza.
It was empty. The most recent train had left minutes before.
Overhead was a table-sign which offered gibberish and so did not register.
A sweeper appeared.
Hurriedly I consulted my faithful "Japanese - English" dictionary (I have it by me today) "Tokyo train wa doku desu ka?"
Which I thought meant: "Where is the train for Tokyo?"
He looked at me quizzically.
"Ou est la chemin de fer au Tokyo?" I blurted (Before the jargon was annotated).
Why did I think my inability to speak French would help me in my inability to speak Japanese?
The sweeper pointed to the sign board, which had appeared to be gibberish. There, clearly, in what had appeared to be gibberish, was the word 'Tokyo" followed by a list of times.

Subsequently I learned that 'Tokyo' was Romaji -- a rendering of Japanese vocables into symbols Latin familiars could read.

So I made it to the Ginza and much good followed.

But why did I try French? And why did the sweeper point to the sign -- which suddenly made sense -- in response?


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1 comment:

  1. i've found that my brain has categorized all languages on earth into two categories: english, and not english.

    when confronted with a situation where not english is necessary, my brain helpfully tries spanish first, then swedish if spanish doesn't work.

    i can usually head it off at the pass and stop it before those words come out of my mouth, but not always.

    sorry, nice (if very confused) old indian man. oops!