Giving up on looking cool, focussing instead on sounding natural (language lessons I wished I’d learnt earlier)

Recently I have mostly been watching videos by Dogen. Dogen being the pen-name for an American guy who speaks insanely natural-sounding  Japanese and who makes videos about how to do so. I highly recommend checking out his Patreon page. He also makes rather hilarious youTube videos in Japanese, which is where I first discovered him. The focus of his videos is phonetics, particularly the importance of correct pitch-accent for natural-sounding Japanese. And as I watch them and try to put these lessons into practise, I am realising pitch-accent is a – probably the – major weakness in my Japanese. And … Continue reading Giving up on looking cool, focussing instead on sounding natural (language lessons I wished I’d learnt earlier)

What Language Should I Use to Talk to the Indian Guy Working at Ikea (in Japan)?

It happens often and feels like it’s becoming more and more often. I go into a store, grab my product of choice from the shelf and head to the checkout. Sometimes I only get confirmation when I read the name badge, but mostly I realise before I reach the counter: the staff isn’t Japanese. Then my brain starts to whirl into gear. My British instincts want to go with English. But my cultural sensitivity pushes me to Japanese. I don’t have any grounds for assuming they would speak English simply because they’re not Japanese, but I do. I imagine they … Continue reading What Language Should I Use to Talk to the Indian Guy Working at Ikea (in Japan)?

In Praise of Japan’s Refusal to Follow ‘Common Sense.’

I was out shopping today when I got a couple of surprises. The first was from a life-sized animatronic polar bear that bowed at me from the shadows of a kimono to present a replica strawberry and cream cake. The second was this bag. I saw it out of the corner of my eye as I was passing a shop and it wasn’t until I had stepped onto the escalator that my brain caught up with the combination of flying squirrel and Top Gun quote . . . On a tote bag. I’m not usually one for instinct buying (I … Continue reading In Praise of Japan’s Refusal to Follow ‘Common Sense.’

Japanese Streets: Same from afar, far from the same.

I just got back from the nearby ‘sento’ (a place where you pay money to share a hot bath with random old Japanese men, except much better than that sounds). It was the first time for me going to this place. I’m in the middle of a two-week training course and am based out in Ichikawa on the East side of Tokyo. The streets round here are like any streets in the outskirts of Tokyo. Or the outskirts of any Japanese city for that matter. In fact, most of Japanese streets look the same. If you kidnapped me and drove … Continue reading Japanese Streets: Same from afar, far from the same.

Difficulties with English ‘For Dairy’ (not just a Japanese problem)

The other day I was out doing shopping and I noticed a confusing sign. It was about spectacles. Specifically about the different styles of glasses that this optician sold. There were ‘sports,’ ‘driving,’ and ‘dairy.’ Yes. Glasses ‘for dairy.’ When I first saw this poster from a distance for a brief moment I thought the woman was holding a small goat and was intending to milk it. Then I noticed the Japanese and realised it was glasses ‘for daily’ – an abbreviation for ‘daily use,’ which is in my basket of phrases used in Japan that I am genuinely unsure … Continue reading Difficulties with English ‘For Dairy’ (not just a Japanese problem)