Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Lost In Translation

Sorry to those who thought they were about to read a review about one of the best movies ever made, but this post is about how much is literally lost in translation here in Japan. The language barrier is thicker than a brick wall reinforced on both sides with a steel titanium alloy. This means, of course, that I am out of the loop on basically all topics when it comes to discussions in the teacher's room. For example, one day I slaved away all morning in preparation for my level three classes only to discover once I got to my first one that it was a different schedule that day. The English teachers all seemed shocked that no one told me, and I realized that they probably did, but in Japanese.

Most moment of best movie ever

 Being out of the loop is better sometimes, however. During the sports day at school where the students participate in relay races and other games, I was told shortly before one relay that I would be participating as a runner. Had I known about that ahead of time, I may have backed out due to anxiety from anticipation. The same goes for when I found out that I would be judging an English speech contest. I suppose, to be fair, I had pretty ample notice on that one- about one week. But, when I was told about it, it was in a tone expressing shock that I was unaware of it before.

Sometimes the attempted translations are just plain hilarious. The other day, I went to an electronic store to find out about getting a phone here. The whole process was just ridiculous as the representative did not speak a word of English and we took turns using his iPad translation app to communicate. My favorite was at the end, before I left after trying to explain that I would have to think about it, he told me to wait and typed something into his translator. He turned it to me and it said "I would like to be your partner." I almost burst out laughing on the spot. I'm not sure if he was trying to ask if we could meet up and practice English because he seemed all excited when he noticed that I was an instructor on my ID card, or if he was saying he wanted to be my salesperson if I returned, or if he was just plain being creepy and wanted to be my partner.

I've also realized that sometimes, teachers express understanding when I explain an activity to them, and once we get to class and attempt to execute said activity, it is clear that there was no understanding whatsoever. 

Honestly, some days I want to crumble in to a heap of hopeless sadness on the floor because I just so desperately want to get a point across and be able to communicate with some really cool people. But then I realize that there is absolutely no point in doing so, so I gather myself up, hold my chin high and embrace the challenges posed by cultural differences One thing is for sure:. being thrown into a new country makes learning the language a heck of a lot quicker.

The way to cause that wall preventing communication to come crumbling down? Put everyone in a room together and get a drink in their hands. And then after that drink, refill their glasses and repeat, until fluency is achieved. It works like a magic charm. 

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