Monday, March 8, 2010

I no speak foreignerish

Ok, this post might only really make sense to my foreign readers who speak decent Japanese since this is something that you won't really experience otherwise.

Being half-Japanese and my relatively good command of the Japanese language, during a brief encounter with me, a Japanese person might just assume that I am Japanese and not really think more of it. But what happens occasionally when I have to ask some questions in a shop or other place is that I run into a person, who at the beginning of the conversation believes that I am Japanese, but then I make some minor mistake in my spoken Japanese and the person realizes that he/she is talking to a foreigner.

Most of the time things go reasonably smooth in any case, but with a few people something happens in their brain when they realize that they're not talking to a Japanese person; all of a sudden they cannot understand anything that is being said and resort to speaking like they're speaking to a child. It doesn't matter at all if a normal conversation had been ongoing for quite some time before. Over the phone this is also pretty common...

This very rudimentary form of Xenophobia usually is quite frustrating to deal with when it happens, but I can't help finding it quite amusing how some Japanese people's minds just short-circuit when forced to deal with a foreigner and it's usually not malignant, just insecurity playing in...

6 comments:

Martin said...

Yes, Japaneese people are stupider.

aimlesswanderer said...

Yeah, the amazing ignorance and extremely bizarre behaviour is quite silly. But that's Japanese people for you! OMFG, strange furriners, brain has seized up!

When we were there for a holiday, at times we were mistaken for locals, and they started talking to us rapidly in nihongo - which came to a screeching halt when we looked back looking extremely clueless.

RMilner said...

This one time me and the wife (who is native born Japanese -- I am English) were on holiday, visiting some small towns in Tohoku.

At one place we ate at the most recommended noodle restaurant (Japanese guide book) and the O-baa-san of the house said in surprise, "That woman (meaning my wife) speaks Japanese!!!"

Martin said...

Stupid is as stupid does. Japan is clearly the stupidest.

Timotheos said...

@Martin aka TheTroll: Would you care to back up your insightful opinion with something a little more akin to objective reasoning? And a little English grammar tip: comparative phrases require more than just the comparative form of an adjective or adverb (see what I did there?); otherwise they are wholly incomplete (redundant tautology or oxymoron?) ;)

I can't have a normal conversation in Japanese yet (though I'm working on it!), so for me it doesn't happen quite like that (plus I would never be mistaken for being Japanese). But it's true that some Japanese people will freak out when faced with having to talk to a foreigner. Around here though, people often just talk to me in Japanese without missing a beat, even if they know I don't understand what they are saying (sometimes they will repeat important words). Maybe in the cities they are more self conscious?

Anyhow, my biggest issue is old people not saying こんにちは back when I say it to them. It seldom happens, but occasionally they act as if no sound has emerged from my mouth and just keep on walking. Either they are deaf (which is actually possible, since there are so many old people around) or their brain does that short-circuit thing mentioned in the blog post.

Mr. Salaryman said...

Tim - Don't worry about 'ol Martin, he's no troll, he's an old buddy from back in the old country. Life is more simple there so that's the reason for his slightly mysterious postings!

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