Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Warning

The Japanese woman whom I’ve been teaching English whenever we happen to meet told me the other day:
              “I’ll be joining my kids’ English school for a weekly lesson.”
              “Do you get family discount?”
              “Yes.  It’s additional 6000 yen.” 
              “Is your teacher American?”
              “No, she is a kikokushijo (a school-age returnee) like you.”
“I’m not a kikokushijo, but they all have various language experiences.  So it’s difficult to judge who is best.  It also depends on their parents.” 
“Do you think once a week is enough for me to become fluent?”
“To become fluent in English is hard for Japanese adults.”
“But you speak fluently, don’t you?”
“Yes, but it’s been very hard.    It still is.  It looks easy, isn’t it?”
She nods.
“Fujiwara Masahiko (well known mathematician) described it as a blood-oozing pain. I agree with him.”
Her lips open.  She makes a frown like biting into a piece of lemon.


Caroline Gill said...

Greetings, Keiko, from England. I enjoyed reading this 'bitter lemon' post! I always enjoy your work in Orizont Literar Contemporan.

keiko amano said...


I appreciate this comment because I've been thinking of developing it into a short story. You might see it soon in Orizont Literar Contemporan!

Thank you also for your work at the magazine.

CrazyLassi said...

Hello, I've met you on Facebook group on Japanese literature.

To become fluent in any language we need fluent immersion. And when we finally learn it and think it's safe to abandon it for a while. We struggle to catch up to that fluency later on. It's a life long process.

At first sight, I felt like asking: "Why was the lady so desperate in learning English?". Now, I think, I was the same when I was learning English. I thought English was my door to the whole world. One day this may change though and lingua franca may become, Japanese, you never know ;)

keiko amano said...

Thank you, CrazyLassi, for your comment.

I forgot mention that Buddha was born in the place we call Nepal today, not India, although it's close and at that time there was no country, Nepal and India, I think.

About the importance of languages, I read that Japanese is seventh, I think. It's quite high for a small island country. Arabic is not that high but it's part of UN important languages (I forgot what it is called.