The Witless Clunkery of a Third-Rate Mind

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Free English Lessons

Hi, everybody. Not much news to report but it's been a while so I thought I'd write just the same. Today (Monday) is a normal work day, but tomorrow is the school's anniversary, so they've got some special events planned and the upshot is that we don't have to work tomorrow and most students have no classes. So some of our English kids have planned a BBQ party for the teachers and any students who want to come... that's happening tonight so it should be fun.

In other news, I went to a party at a friend of a friend's house Saturday night. She's Japanese and speaks pretty good English, but her friends only have a bit of English. I showed up (the only foreigner) and they all Oooh-ed and Ahhh-ed when I said Hi in Japanese. Then they asked me a few questions, and then they ignored me for the rest of the night. It's kind of like when you're the only child in a party of adults. Everyone will be nice to you at first, and ask you the same questions. "So Billy, how old are you?" ("How long have you been in Japan?") "What's your favourite subject in school?" ("What's your favourite Japanese food?") and "Well, Billy, you certainly are a polite young man." ("You speak very good Japanese.") And then it's back to the real conversations with the Grown-ups.

It was the same for me, which is really a bit depressing. I think I could have participated in the conversation if they had been willing to slow it down and simplify it by maybe 25% (which isn't asking too much, I don't think) but they weren't, so I didn't. A few of them asked me questions in English, and I answered in Japanese; their friends would inevitably chime in with "Why are you asking him in English? He understands Japanese!" to which a few of them brazenly answered, "But I want to practice my English!" That sort of thing irritates me. It really defines the relationship pretty starkly when they say that, and then lose interest when you speak Japanese. Like all we're good for is free English lessons. And the real problem is that all of their foreign "friends" (and every young Japanese person is keen to have a couple) are all too willing to play along, not realizing that they're not really friends at all, just a convenient source of English conversation skills, so that these young, cosmopolitan Japanese can visit a whole lot of foreign countries, but not to improve their understanding of other cultures; just so that they can come back and impress their friends with how many countries they've visited. Argh.

Anyway, lest you think I'm miserable here or something, I'm not... things are generally good. The weather STILL hasn't turned, so every day that's not rainy is a blessing. I'm keeping busy and feeling pretty good. More when something interesting happens...


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