Thursday, July 17, 2003

A story about why I am no good at English (Part 1)

I start my blog in English, not my native Japanese. Challenging!
Obviously, I am no good at English communication at all, in spite of a long study history since junior high school days. (and I've got my Bachelor's in UK.) Keeping expressing things by not own language makes me fell very upset, uneasy, uncomfortable... But what has been disturbing me to develop my English communication??

I get nervous when I am unsure if I am expressing in English in the way people can understand what I intend and if I am understanding what people mean to imply in their words. The nervousness seems to arise from some lost feeling of something to be shared with others, of which I naturally feel as a part of communication.

You may just laugh that it is just a typical high context culture, high uncertainty avoidance. Yes That's true, but.....what it means to me?

One old example, Kyoto, old Japanese town has their own language manner. If I linger at local Kyoto town house too long and asked if I would like to have some bubuzuke( sort of a light meal) by native Kyoto, it means I am asked to be leaving. Such a sophisticated manner to remind someone something. If I really eat some bubuzuke there, my unsophisticated manner will be backbitten forever.

There are manners of this kind in every communities, religions, generation and gender among Japanese world. We are expected to be sharing the manners with people we communicate so that good communication means to behave well these manners.

And there also something about feeling and opinion too. I wonder, how often, we say a word like " you see." or "isn’t it." to expect sharing one's feeling or opinion with others. Say, if there is something happen on her or someone said something to her and she get irritated, disturbed or disagree, She will get out nothing there, coming back to her friends or any group she thinks she belongs, she will tell the story and say, "then.......you see", skipping to express her felling and opinion.

Of course she dose not necessary to tell the conclusion which is obvious to her to be deduced from the same experiment by everybody. (And she will be safely healed by her image of share of the feeling.) Are we so like the conformist or the collectivist? But such notions do not matter indeed as long as she is surrounded by the same mannered people.

I am no mean to criticize these. These are my culture. But as to make foreign language communication, I regret that I was never aware, never conscious of my cultural nature in comparison with another cultures on the globe. I must say that I used to mistake my culture against foreign cultures for popular typical Japanese images, which were just surface witnessed by other cultures.


I remember, one Sunday afternoon of my first time UK stay, spending cozy time at my friend' large room with some other girls in a hall of residence which was converted from a old manner house or some big house and had some of rooms really nice, we realized it's dinner time already, and she said gracefully "OK girls, I've got some chocolates.”

Other girls but me excited " Yes! Chocolates!" I alone, on the other hand, was busy to seal my disappointment. (From my conformist nature, I could not disturb other girl's feeling.) One reason I disappointed was that I didn't know at the time, by habit in UK high tea instead of dinner is eaten on Sunday evening whereas the sunday dinner is taken as more important to me. The other is, by my Japanese ideology at the time, chocolate was just a sweet, a kiddy sweet (because as it was still on way of the shift from Japanese traditional to the westernized, young generation ate western sweet and older generation preferred Japanese sweet.) and eating sweets before dinner is a bad manner. So much I was lost. It seemed they shared something about the word chocolate which I do not know. Such image could make me of the high-uncertainty avoidance collectivist feel lost in the situation.

Phew, quite enough long already. Later part will be continued.