The Joy of Japanese Language

So, I’ve been studying Japanese since approximately 2001 and unfortunately can really not call myself more than conversationally fluent.

Lately it is difficult remembering kanji and I haven’t really spoken to anyone in Japanese since my friend Naomi was visiting – and at that point we were speaking an interesting half-Japanese, half-English hybrid.

Here’s kind of an example of how Alex and I sometimes talk to each other:

“I think if I were in Japan for six months my *nihongo would be pretty **jyouzu.  ***Ne?”




***Don’t you think so?

Which is most likely true.  Part of the problem is that I am extremely comfortable being informal in Japanese – sometimes extremely informal – since my friends and I joke around a lot.

Also, most of my friends live in the Kansai region, so I tend to throw in メッチャ instead of とても which means there is about a 50/50 chance of me saying something in colloquial Kansai-ben mixed with standard Tokyo-ben which just sounds totally weird.

Another thing about my awesome version of Japanese is that I try to speak at a normal rate and do not like to speak slowly at all or even think about what I am saying if it means that I have to speak slowly.  Which means that whichever verb form pops into my head first is the one that I will likely use.

Sensei: ナンシーさんは元気ですか?

Me: はい、元気だよ!先生は?

Approximate translation of what this probably sounds like to the cultured speaker of Japanese:

Teacher: Miss Nancy, are you faring well today?

Me: Hell yeah, I’m doing just fine!  How ’bout you?

But sometimes I have the opposite problem, of being perhaps too formal, like when I order at McDonald’s at the airport.

Me: すみませんが、チーズバーガーセットを下さいませんか?

Cashier: オーケー。500円です。

Approximate translation:

Me: Pardon me…Won’t you please give me the cheeseburger meal?

Cashier: Okay.  That’ll be 500 yen.

I can’t win!  It’s because I can think about what I’m going to order for five minutes and then plan what I am going to say accordingly… but when people ask me things conversationally I just say whatever comes to mind.