Friday, 3 August 2007

The Japanese are people too!

In my efforts to understand more about Japan and it's people, I have taken upon myself to immerse myself as much as possible. I feel it is important to learn as much as possible, so as to avoid embarrassing myself too much and gain trust and familiarity with those I interact with. One thing I have learned about the Japanese is that, in many ways, they are no different from us or any other country in the world. The similarities are many, and that fact in itself should help me gain confidence to make conversation (I hope! ¬_¬).

Where I work there is a room directly opposite my office that is leased out by a small Japanese company called ENA (I'll try to find out what it stands for later). The guys that work there provide an after school private tutor service for Japanese kids living in this country. The ages of the kids they teach range from what looks like 6 to 16 years of age.

I've seen these guys around for over 3 years, and always pass them in the corridors of the building throughout the day, but I never plucked up the courage to try and talk to them about my interests, fearing that they would not be interested or felt uncomfortable around me. I was so worried about what they thought about me, that I pretty much gave up on trying, even though I REALLY wanted to be able to talk to them! Pretty stupid, huh? ¬_¬

Ironically, it was one of the apprentices named Michael that I work with that, in his utter noobish attitude just went up to them and started talking to them, even though he had little to no knowledge of Japan. His shear curiosity outweighed any feelings of inadequacy I would've felt in the same situation. He isn't exactly the sharpest tool in the box, but I can honestly say that I envied his childlike innocence and enthusiasm!

Every now and again, I would see him go into their room to have a conversation with the team leader of ENA (his name is Masa, like the famous samurai sword Masamune) and the others, in English. He got them to teach him a little Japanese, but it was mostly silly stuff like "what does my name mean in Japanese?" and "how do you call someone an idiot in Japanese?" In turn, he was teaching them a little English as Masa knew quite a bit of English himself. I truly despaired at the direction most of their conversations went, but had to accept that Michael was doing what I could not.

I vowed to myself, that I would try harder to make my presence known, and show these guys that I'm a nice guy who has an interest in Japan too!

At first, whenever Michael and a couple of the other apprentices would go to visit the ENA guys, I would jump in as well. I was able to give my insight into certain parts of English that they weren't sure about, and also show them how good my pronounciation of some Japanese words was, therefore getting my foot through the door. I also improved my standing by showing them some of my art work, which they were very impressed with! ^_^

I realise now that I really didn't have much to worry about from the start! They're very friendly, and the mood of our conversations is always very lighthearted and comical!

Things have gone on quite smoothly to date. I say "Konnichiwa!" whenever I see them, and Masa is happy talk to someone who has an interest in Japan, because he gets to teach me new things each time. So far, he's told me about the different regions of Japan, as well as the best places to visit, such as Akihabara and Shibuya. As I suspected, there is a lot more to Japan than just Tokyo. It's the same with England, you can't understand the entire country just by visiting London!

I must say though, since attending that 1 week intensive course in Japanese (which I will tell you about later in another post), I finally have some ammunition that I can use to start learning Japanese to at least a basic level. I have enought to be able to at least put together basic sentences. I think that once I'm comfortable with this, then I can think about slightly more complicated stuff, and maybe even learn how to read Japanese as well! (let's not get ahead of ourselves Roy! - Me ¬_¬)

I'm sure that anyone that has learned Japanese can say that, it is a lot more helpful to be around Japanese people when learning their language than just on your own!

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