Language Barriers

Here's a question for you. How many of you can speak a foreign language? And should you meet someone who spoke that language, would you feel confident enough to start up a conversation?

For those of you living in Japan, how often do you meet people who speak {your native language}?

I am constantly blown away by the number of people I meet who can speak English. This week alone I have met four new people who spoke English. The amazing thing is that all of them were over the age of 60 or even 70. Personally I find that incredible. As you know, and my brother will back me up on this, despite studying French for eight years, I am dismal. And even after fifteen years living in Japan my language level is shockingly poor.

Last year at a Christmas lunch I met a beautiful French woman. Not once did I admit that I spoke even the tiniest bit of French.

In Japanese I am doing much better. I'm actually trying now. Last Sunday I went along to my second swimming club party. I was able to follow along with quite a lot of what was being said. I still did not talk much though. What normally gets me is the speed at which the conversation changes course. I'm sure it's true in any language.

I guess I would have to say hats off to those people who see me around and have the courage to strike up a conversation. It's marvelous!


  1. Yay to you learning Japanese and finally understanding it, that is huge! I hope you feel more confident soon to start talking it too :)
    I wish we could be like The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and put a Babel fish in our ear to understand all the other languages.
    I try the to use a few Chinese words (like good morning and thank you) but find most local HK people like to practice their English on us (and they possibly dont understand what I am saying as I could be getting it wrong?!)
    Not to mention here in China, there is Mandarin and also Cantonese and other more local dialects...aahhhhhh

  2. Good for you for reaching new heights in your second language!

    Do you act the same in both languages? Would you be likely to be a listener even at home? I am the talker, I need to work on my listening skills, and that's how I am in Japanese as well. 95% is not correct but it comes out of my mouth anyway.

  3. Thanks Cat! nice to hear more about you.

    Jen, it's interesting you should ask as I don't think I was a listener before but on my recent trip home I found myself taking a real backseat in conversations especially in group situations. In truth I couldn't keep up with some of the topics (being out of touch with politics and employment etc over there). Plus it was a tiring trip, very busy, I sometimes just didn't have the energy to chat. I never used to be like that.

  4. For languages, if you don't use it, it's soooo easy to lose it! I used to speak Swedish because I lived in Sweden but I have lost it a lot. But, I have no fear of going up to Swedish people and to talk to them in Swedish. I think it's fun to remember the language. I lived in Montreal, Quebec, for 5 years and learned French. Unfortunately, I lost most of it... I enjoy learning different languages.

  5. That's fantastic Makoto! You've lived in some interesting places for sure!


I love your comments!
Thanks, I read each and every one of them!

I try to reply to all your comments, if you want to know what I and others say check :Email follow-up comments to ...

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.