Lost in Translation

The Japanese culture is one which elicits polite composure from it’s people at all times, so that no one’s ‘feathers get ruffled‘ or no one ‘rocks the boat‘. People bow and apologise a thousand times a day for every little action or inaction they carry out, in order to ensure a peaceful and harmonious existence is upheld for all.

During my time in Japan I have been learning all about the complexities of the Japanese language. Since no one says what they are really thinking, I’ve been learning to interpret the subtext of the language too. Deciphering Japanese words, more often than not, also involves decoding the sentiments that aren’t spoken…the ones that are Lost in Translation

What all Japanese people say: ‘Wow, your Japanese is amazing, you are fluent these days!’

What I hear: ‘Most of the time I can sort of piece together what you are saying, but my cultural upbringing tells me I have to complement you on your (false) ability.’

What my teacher said: ‘I’m sorry, the lesson is very full today, we don’t have time for your warm up activity.’

What I heard: ‘I really don’t like your warm up activity, so I’m ditching it from the lesson plan.’

What my Japanese teacher said: ‘I love your pink coat, it’s really cute! Where did you buy it?’

What I heard: ‘That’s a really expensive looking coat, you must be rich. Please confirm this for me by telling me where you purchased it.’

What my student said: ‘I like Linkin Park.’

What I heard: ‘I am rare. I am your new favourite student. Teach me all you know about non-Japanese music.’

What the entire Japanese population says:Gambatte!’

What I hear: ‘Build a bridge/open up a can of toughenup/get over it/grow a pair/kill ’em!’

What my teacher said: ‘That student is…very…interesting.’

What I heard: ‘That kid is weird.’

What my JTE said: ‘You look very busy, are you doing English study?’

What I heard: ‘It looks like you’re slacking off, but you’re writing in English so I can’t tell for sure. Please stop it.’

What Japanese women say: ‘I’m on a diet.’

What I hear: ‘I have perfect Japanese genes and can eat whatever I want, whenever I want and never have to exercise.’

What the tennis teacher said: ‘Here is some omiyage for you.’

What I heard: ‘I’m so sorry I went to hospital for two days because I was so sick I couldn’t walk or eat, while you had to stay here and work.  I hope this cookie goes some small way toward making amends for my sins.’

What a Japanese person said: ‘I can’t speak English at all.’

What I heard: ‘I can speak and understand far more English than you’ll ever know.’

What the boys at school say: ‘You smell bad!’

What I hear: ‘You smell good and I don’t like it.’

What a Japanese person says: ‘Really, you have a tattoo?!’

What I hear: ‘Really, you have a tattoo, you joined the Yakuza and you’re involved in an organised crime ring in Japan?!’

What a Japanese person says: sumimasen.

What I hear: ‘Get out of my way/my bad/heads up/coming through.’

What a Japanese person says: ‘I love AKB48!!!’

What I hear: ‘I am a disgrace to the human race and should never be allowed to procreate.’

What my JTE says: ‘Oh, you’ve finished making that work sheet already? Great!’

What I hear: ‘You’ve finished making that worksheet already?! You were supposed to drag out the task for three days…now I have to think of something else for you to do, grrr.’

What any Japanese person says: ‘Oh, you’re 30, unmarried and don’t have children?’

What I hear: ‘Oh, you want to kill yourself because your life is so empty and unfulfilling?’

What Yuya says: ‘You are very, very, very beautiful!’

What I hear: ‘C’mon, pleeeeeeaaaaaaase give me a rubber super ball!’

What Kevin said: ‘I drink Calpis.’

What I heard: ‘I drink cow p#ss.’

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2 thoughts on “Lost in Translation

  1. Hey Carla, Steve here (SDCARLTON), Your IG bud. I had to tell you how funny your “What I Hear:” list is simply hilarious. Also, in reading your self diagnosis of your addiction I to have discovered that I too am an instagramaholic. Ok I admitted it. The first step, right. haha.

    • Steve, thanks so much for taking the time to come and read some of my musings about Japan…though I fear you might know a lot more about me now! It is reassuring to know you’re an Instaholic too…I’m learning to live comfortably with the disease 😉

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