Thursday, November 16, 2006

What she said was...

So Sunday night, Alvis and I were watching the tail-end of the Japanese variety show "Fun Tours."

Like most things Japanese, it's kinda hard to explain, but it seems to revolve around a small group of college-aged guys and gals who ride around on a highly painted tour-bus (Partridge Family style) and go from place to place, with humorous results.

Anyway, they appeared to be on a sushi tour this time and stopped by this one place that was serving, umm, odd sushi. Not so much ingredient-wise, but how it was presented. Like the meat was five times as big as the rice it was placed on. Stuff like that.

So, one of the members, a young woman, was trying to delicately eat this sushi and was finding it kinda spicy and a bit larger of a single-bite portion than normal. All her tour-bus companions were laughing at her, she was making all kinds of faces, and everyone was having a grand time at her expense.

Alvis and I were laughing too; pretty loudly.

Lavie came in to see what the fuss was about and watched a few more minutes with us as the young woman began chattering away in Japanese to her friends, everyone laughing, riotously.

Then Lavie turns to me, and asks "What did she say?"

I had to pause for a minute to consider her question.

Lavie was wearing her dead-serious face. The one she wears when she asks me her "so tell me again why we need a new keyboard/mouse/hard-drive/CD-ROM, etc...." question all too often.

She really and sincerely wanted to know and expected me to be able to tell her.

I burst out laughing. Alvis had put on her puzzled face as well.

Lavie looks at me and asks again, "What did she say?" thinking maybe I didn't understand her.

I just grinned at her and waited....

"What?" Lavie asked.

Using my kindest, warmest voice I said, "Honey, I don't speak Japanese."

I went on, "But I think she was saying something like "you guys are meanies. You told me it was sweet sushi and this is so spicy. I think my mouth is on fire. Oh gosh I want to spit it out! I'm going to get you when you are asleep tonight on the bus...just you guys wait for tricking me!" Or something close to that.

Lavie blushed hard and buried her face in a pillow, realizing what she asked me and now remembering full well I don't speak Japanese.

Granted, I watch a ton of Japanese anime and live action dramas. Lavie sometimes watches the romantic-dramas with me. But I guess it's getting pretty bad when your spouse starts to associate your Japanese TV habits with your foreign language skills. She does ask me from time to time to translate some Spanish. Lots of years of Spanish classes in high school and college, and then on the job in my former career left me comfortable speaking some elementary-level Spanish. But my knowledge of the Japanese language is sadly, very, very, very weak.

Why do I enjoy watching these dramas so much, even if they aren't subtitled or dubbed? The language sounds pretty and it's stimulating and entertaining to watch the sets and locations and the clothing styles. And it's just fun. I'm also finding that it hones my "people-reading" skills by forcing me to pay attention to mannerisms, tone of voice and other details like that. More times that not I think I am able to follow the basic story line pretty successfully, anyway. And with some careful searching on the Web, I can often get the basic characters and their relationships to each other down. That helps.

I've thought about getting some conversational Japanese CD's to listen to in the car driving to and from work, or maybe seeing if the local community college offers a class. That would probably be the best. It might be fun

Danny Choo recently posted about how he learned Japanese. It was very interesting.

So now, all I have to do is quietly mutter "What did she say?" with a straight face and Lavie blushes all over again.

Isn't marriage great!


Related Links:

Nihongo o Narau: Learn Japanese -- nice website with all kinds of Japanese vocabulary words, reviews, grammar lessons, etc.

Hanzi Smatter -- blog "dedicated to the misuse of chinese characters in western culture" A real riot to read!

Gibberish Asian Font Mystery Solved via Hanzi Smatter. Beware before you get that "cool" Asian-font tattoo!

All Things Kawaii - OK, not really so much anything "language" related, but hey, it's still kawaii (cute).

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