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!

5 comments:

  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

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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

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