Memories of a Japanese Learner

  • 2015.01.09

As I am about to go back to France, I have started to look back over my “Sapporo years”. Of the many things I have learned, the Japanese language is obviously a most precious one. When I arrived in Japan, all I could say was こんにちはand ありがとう. Fourteen years later, although my Japanese is still nowhere near as good as it should be or as I’d like it to be after all this time, I am somewhat proud of the fact that I can now converse rather comfortably in this language. However, it didn’t come easy and, for my last blog, I’d like to share with you some of my funniest memories as a Japanese learner.

I have made mistakes with vocabulary. For instance, there was this one time when I wanted to wish a friend sweet dreams via text message and I wrote よいうめを. That’s right, I wished my friend sweet plums! I have also been betrayed by intonation. After dinner with a friend, I wanted to suggest that we meet again sometime, but used the wrong intonation on いつか, so my friend thought I wanted to meet again on the 5th. That led to a weird misunderstanding.

I have also sometimes learned new words in rather funny ways. A few years ago, I was in a bar, and I don’t remember exactly what I was talking about, but I wanted to use the word “rub” and I didn’t know how to say it in Japanese. So, I asked the bartender while rubbing the counter with my hand: “こうする (gesture)、日本語でなんていうの?” He replied: “擦る。” So, I said, “Yes, that’s what I want to know. こうする (gesturing again) 日本語でなんていうの?” The bartender was getting a little frustrated and repeated in a louder voice while mimicking my gesture: “こうするは擦るっていうよ!” I still wasn’t getting it and needed to ask one more time. When I finally understood, the bartender was laughing out loud. I felt a little embarrassed, but I had just learned a new word and made someone laugh, so it was all worthwhile.

These three anecdotes happened a long time ago, but I still remember them years later and I will never make those mistakes again. So, keep studying, enjoy discovering, laugh heartily at your mistakes and learn from them.