PDA

View Full Version : Assumptions that gaijin cannot speak Japanese (at all)



Maciamo
Oct 4, 2005, 22:11
Yeah, it's usually cab drivers, and I am indeed sick of telling the same story over and over again, but I've almost never been given that "you couldn't possibly know what you're talking about" look. I do get the "Wow, your'e Japanese is great! I'm still going to butcher English in our conversation though!" bit quite often.

I didn't mean that people gave me the "you couldn't possibly know what you're talking about" look. It's more than many look genuinely surprised that after 2, 3 or 4 years in Japan I can speak Japanese at a reasonable level, read a menu in Japanese, or know where Kobe or Aomori (or any other city) are. This expression of surprise on their face always makes me feel like they first thought I was the last of the idiot.

Funny that I haven't experienced anything similar in any other country - and Japan is the 7th country where I have stayed (at least a few months) as something else than a tourist. I guess I would make less fuss if Japan was my first international experience, but it isn't and it only stresses more this peculiarity of the Japanese.

Silverpoint
Oct 4, 2005, 23:32
it only stresses more this peculiarity of the Japanese.

And don't even get me started on the Belgians... ;-)

(just kidding)

GaijinPunch
Oct 5, 2005, 08:55
This expression of surprise on their face always makes me feel like they first thought I was the last of the idiot.

Well, look at it from their perspective. How many non-Asian gaijin in Japan? How many of those speak Japanese? How may of those speak Japanese well? The first question starts at a very low percent, and then just goes lower and lower. Of course you're going to run into people that are surprised. Give it time... the novelty wears off after a while.


Funny that I haven't experienced anything similar in any other country

Not necessarily. What are the homogeneity figures of those countries? I couldn't imagine many European countries where one would be surprsied by a multilingual. Westerners are just not well known for learning Asian langauges. I don't think that's very strange to show a little interest/surprise in one speaking their native language.


I'd say that those the most likely to fit this generalisation are those who do not often meet foreigners (i.e. most Japanese) or have only met the "bad examples" of gaijin.

That's most likely the issue. I've bought items online through Yahoo many times and have often been told, "this is my first time to talk to a foreigner". I figure at the 5 year mark you get to the point where you're just immune to it. People ask if why you speak Japanese and you just tell them how many years you've lived there and go on with your day. You may even get confident/comfortable enough that you don't mind the odd acquantaince wanting to practice their elementary English on you.

Silverpoint
Oct 5, 2005, 10:27
I've frequently had an expression of surprise walking into a store or restaurant in small town America, simply because I have an English accent. It's never even crossed my mind that it might bother me. I don't think brief surprise at the sight or sound of a foreigner is particularly unusual. It's just a natural reaction to something you don't see often.


I didn't mean that people gave me the "you couldn't possibly know what you're talking about" look. It's more than many look genuinely surprised that after 2, 3 or 4 years in Japan I can speak Japanese at a reasonable level, read a menu in Japanese, or know where Kobe or Aomori (or any other city) are. This expression of surprise on their face always makes me feel like they first thought I was the last of the idiot.

How on earth are they supposed to know how long you've been in Japan? You could have been a tourist fresh off the plane.

Maciamo
Oct 5, 2005, 19:57
How on earth are they supposed to know how long you've been in Japan? You could have been a tourist fresh off the plane.

Alright, let's explain it this way, as indeed you are not supposed to know how and what kind of people I meet. Most of the Japanese that I meet are people who are studying English, in which case the introduction is in English, and they may only know that I speak Japanese after a few weeks or months after we have met. In that case, they know that I have been in Japan for x years, that I am married to a Japanese, etc. So why would it be surprising that I should speak Japanese ? The other kind of people I meet are through my wife (her friends or acquaintances), and these often fit particularily well my description in the previous post. They know that I am married to my wife of course and have lived in Japan for all this time, but they are surprise at all kind of things, not just my language abilities, but trivial things such as the fact that I can use chopsticks (who can't ?). How would you feel if after 4 years in, say, Italy, people who knew you had been there for so long started applauding and exclaiming "wow ! you can roll your pasta with your fork without spoon !" Would be weird, wouldn't it ? You'd think they are making fun of you or are deranged.

Mikawa Ossan
Oct 5, 2005, 21:00
Whenever I read your posts on this topic, Maciamo, I get the impression that most of your "problems" with the Japanese comes from your mindset that you bring to the situation. Please don't be offended and let me explain, and please understand that this is hard for me to explain.

Growing up, I remember numerous stories and movies, etc., about the immigrant experience in the USA. It seems that every immigrant group that arrived in America in significant numbers has encountered discrimination much worse than ANTHING I personally have encountered here in Japan. Usually the story seems to follow that the first generation meets a lot of difficulty, but subsequent generations do not. encounter so much. (I am speaking of people who came to America originally on their own free will.)

Why is that?

Second generation people tend to be much more assimilated into the culture at large than first generation immigrants. Second generation people have a better command of the language, a better command of cultural norms, and a much weaker sense of identity with the "mother country" than their parents. Therefore, they fit in better. (Yes, I realize that there is more to the story, but for the time being, just this much will suffice for the point I'm trying to make.)

When you as a foreigner/immigrant come to another country, you have several options. One of these options is to keep your preexisistant world view and try to make your new host country bend to your way of thinking. Another option is to do the opposite. That is, to throw out your old world view completely and adopt your host country's way of thinking without omission. Then there are numerous shades of grey in between.

Maciamo, you strike me as someone near that first extreme. It seems to me, from the little that I know of you through your posts, that you have adopted many superficial aspects of Japanese life, but you mistake that for much deeper aspects. It seems to me that you don't really try to understand the Japanese as they are, but you expect them to accept you without prejudice.

On the other hand, I can see that you make efforts. You talk to Japanese and try to explain your side of things. You continue to live here even though you often find things to be annoying. And I commend you for that.

I just want to know: have you honestly without prejudice ever tried to put yourself into the "Japanese`s" shoes and tried to understand exactly how and why they think as they do?

I don't mean to be overly critical. I have lived in Japan for a total of about 5 1/2 years, so I know it's not so long. But it's roughly comparable to your stay, I think. Hearing your stories, I always come to very different conclusions than you do. I've noticed that I have fewer such stories than you seem to. I wonder if our mindsets don't contribute to this?

For example, religion. I take a live and let live approach to the topic. You seem to have much stronger opinions than I do.

Another example is discrimination in Japan. It often crosses my mind that A won't sit next to me on the train because I'm a foreigner or B won't ask me for directions for the same reason, and sometimes that's exactly the case, but I try to assume that it's something else, and only after every other possibility has been exhausted will I actively think that it's real discrimination.

It just seems that our starting points are very different and that this causes different results. Which is better? I don't know. I seem to encounter less daily trouble than you, but then again, you're the one who's married, and I deeply envy you for that. :p

Sorry this is so long!

Maciamo
Oct 6, 2005, 00:16
Maciamo, you strike me as someone near that first extreme.

I think the problem is that there are differences between me and the average Japanese (let's say about 80-90%) that are irreconciliable, and these are not necessarily cultural. Among the cultural or educational issues is that I attach a lot of importance in knowledge, analysis and rationality, while typical Japanese do not. Another cultural problem is that the Japanese try to "read people's feelings" and say what they think would please a person from their point of view. I understand very well that it is why they would praise me about being able to use chopsticks or speak Japanese. What I am complaining about is justly that they cannot grasp that this may be insulting to logical people like me, who can only logically conclude that something as trivial as being able to use chopsticks is something worthy of praise after staying several years in Japan.

I think it may be as difficult for some forum members to understand my feelings on this, as it would be for a convinced Christian to understand why I think that the idea of the Christian god is preposterous. In each case, if the other party cannot think 100% logically, they won't understand my position.

You must be wondering : "Why does he know that the Japanese try to praise him and still get offended ?" If you wonder that, then your mind cannot think like mine (while I can, nevertheless, understand your position).

There is a second factor, which as you pointed out make me want to impose my views on others (note that I am not confronting my country's culture against the Japanese one, but my personal culture/mindset against any culture in the world).

It can be explained by Kohlberg's stages of moral development (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kohlberg%27s_stages_of_moral_development). Have a look at the link. I believe that Japanese society is blocked somewhere between level 1 and 4 (or a mixture of it), and due to cultural reasons (ultra-conformism, and group-mentality), cannot reach the Post-Conventional stage. I do not mean that Westerners do. Some do, other don't. Kohlberg acknowledges that few people ever reach stage 6 (or 7). It is not a matter of pride or achievement, but I believe that for some reasons linked to my personality and experience since birth, I have passed stages more quickly than ordinary people, and have reached stages 5 and 6 (depending on the circumstances).

In short, my philosophical principles (including logics, atheism...) and universal ethical principles (humanism...) are stronger than any cultural or social conventions or law, and I feel entitled to criticise anything that does not go in accordance with those principles. In other words, I am anti-conformist, extremely independant-minded, and mostly unselfish (i.e. care more about the good of the whole world/humanity than my own). That is why I feel it necessary to improve society as a whole, pinpoint at the political, economical or social problems in the country where I live (or others) so as to senibilise people about those issues and make them change, as I have explained in this thread (http://www.wa-pedia.com/forum/showthread.php?t=15958).

Conclusion, I cannot accept ways of thinking which are not logical. rational or go against my principles, whatever the country. Japanese people being culturally disposed not to think logically, and not to understand the feelings of somebody who think the way I do, they end up saying things that I find unacceptable and insulting even when they want to be polite. I realise that I won't be able to change them all by myself. But if you also think that it is annoying to praised for things that everybody can do (if they want to), then join me in my quest to explain to the Japanese you meet what they shouldn't say to Westerners (http://www.wa-pedia.com/culture/what_japanese_should_not_say_to_foreigners.shtml). :-)


It just seems that our starting points are very different and that this causes different results.

In fact, when I first came to Japan, I didn't even suspect that the Japanese could discriminate against well-behaving Westerners interested in their country. The first tips came from the attitude of my grandmother-in-law (which I met on a daily basis at the beginning). Even after I managed to speak conversational Japanese, she would still make gestures rather than speak to me with words. I replied to her in Japanese, but she feigned not to understand. My wife had to repeat exactly what I said so that she would listen. Even after my wife explained many times that I was not speaking English, French or whatever, but very understandable Japanese, the grandma would still not listen and use gestures.

Had is been only for that, I could have dismissed it as a special case. But the longer I stayed in Japan, the more I gained confidence to address locals in Japanese (without my wife's presence), and the more I realised that this was a quite common attitude. I could go to the dry cleaning, several bento shops, ask something at the station, the immediate reaction of most people over 40 (and some younger too) was to "freeze" and make gestures assuming that I was not speaking Japanese. With younger people, they typically responded by this expression of surprise that "eventhough I was only a gaijin, I managed to learn their difficult language".

First I just took it as a compliment, but as time passed, I realised that most Japanese truly believe that their language is exceptionally difficult and almost impossible to learn for a foreigner. Some told me what I suspected the other were thinking : "Japanese brains work differently and so it's very difficult for foreigners to learn Japanese" or else "don't you think that Japanese is the most difficult language in the world ?".

Combine all these reactions, repeat them at least a dozen times (I have heard them more than that), and be confronted to an in-law and shop attedant who on a daily basis respond to you with gestures even when you are addressing them in fluent Japanese. How could your image of the people not change ? How could you not think that many Japanese truly think that their language is more difficult because their brain is different (=superior), and that foreigners are therefore stupid. Add to this the commonly held belief that gaijin are responsible for the rise in crimes in Japan (which I have demonstrated is not true; see my article Foreign criminality in Japan (http://www.wa-pedia.com/society/foreign_crime_in_japan.shtml)).

Naturally, not all Japanese think this way, but many do, and probably most older people do. People that actively seek the company of foreigners/Westerners most certainly don't. But that is not necessarily the people you meet at your local dry cleaner, your neighbours or your wife's friends. I have no complaints about most of the Japanese who have lived in the West and are interested in Western culture. These are the people that made me stay in Japan for so long.

Silverpoint
Oct 6, 2005, 13:38
Maciamo... There is one part of your argument which appears flawed to me. You seem to describe this 'insulting' surprised reaction as something which is pretty unique to the Japanese.

I (yes ME) am often surprised when a foreigner I meet displays a solid command of Japanese. So, I discriminate too. And what's more I don't really care if you want to accuse me of discrimination. Against who? Foreigners? Like me?

Why am I surprised? Because for every one good Japanese speaker I meet, I come across fifty who struggle to even make basic conversation. And that includes people who have been here for several years. You really need to remove the huge chip on your shoulder and take peoples surprise as a compliment (which I'm sure it is often meant to be).

Furthermore, you always seem to place yourself above other people in regard to your mental powers of perception and reasoning. Frequently you've stated that if someone disagrees with you it's because they're not able to come up to your level, they don't understand or they can't think in the way that you do. I know that this might be hard for you, but have you ever considered that the reason they disagree with your view, is simply because you're wrong?

GaijinPunch
Oct 6, 2005, 14:07
Try working in finance. I knew people in the 5 year + club (maybe even 10+) that couldn't string a sentence together... at all.

And I will say that Silverpoint has a point... errr... no pun intended. I can't say I'm innocent. I thought similar things after only living there a few years, too. I think you eventually either grow out of it, or just frustrate yourself into a heart attack. There's so many more positive things to be thinking. I mean... honestly, I think you can say similar things about 80-90% of the people around the world. I don't though. If you really don't like the way convesrations go with people, why not avoid conversing with them altogether?

Maciamo
Oct 6, 2005, 14:15
Maciamo... There is one part of your argument which appears flawed to me. You seem to describe this 'insulting' surprised reaction as something which is pretty unique to the Japanese.

I (yes ME) am often surprised when a foreigner I meet displays a solid command of Japanese. So, I discriminate too. And what's more I don't really care if you want to accuse me of discrimination. Against who? Foreigners? Like me?

Why am I surprised? Because for every one good Japanese speaker I meet, I come across fifty who struggle to even make basic conversation. And that includes people who have been here for several years.

Don't forget that I come from a country where most people need to be bilingual or trilingual (i.e. speak 2 or 3 languages at an advanced level) to get a job (and not just a good one, even supermarket cashier). Most of my friends in Continental Europe (+ Scandinavia) can speak 2 to 4 foreign languages at least conversationally (i.e. intermediate level, let's say about a 500 to 700 TOEIC score in English). Japanese being a relatively easy language to learn (few grammatical rules or irregularities, easy pronuciation), I would be surprised to meet somebody who has lived 4 years in Japan, lives with a native Japanese speaker, cannot at least speak conversational Japanese - especially if that person under 30.

I could understand that people who live in an closed expat community, and/or people who have first come to Japan when they were over 40 years old may not speak much Japanese after 4 years. If they do not speak it at all, however, it's pure laziness and unacceptable (they would have no respect for the local culture). But these people are the exception rather than the rule, and not the people younger Japanese would normally have met before to base their comparison. I don't have statistics, but I am under the impression (from my observations in the steet, and from the age of the average age of this forum's members (http://www.wa-pedia.com/advertising/traffic_statistics.shtml)) that the biggest part of Westerners that live in Japan are in their 20's or 30's.

Note that I am not surprised when Japanese people I meet assume that my friends or relatives that come and visit me in Japan (and have never lived there or aren't necessarily interested in Japan) do not speak Japanese. It's obvious. I also do not say that the Japanese should expect a foreigner to reach an advanced level after 3 or 4 years, but at least have a daily conversation level. Their surprise usually comes only after a few words that I have said. Knowing that after 4 years in the country and living with a Japanese, if they still assume that I can't make a sentence or understand what they say, I find it insulting.

One of my main complaints is that typical Japanese do not differentiate between (long-term) residents and short-term visitors. For them, a gaijin is a gaijin and it is as surprising that one of them speaks Japanese when they have just set foot in the country or have lived there for 5 or 10 years. It's only shocking to me that they should not make this distinction in their mind, not the fact that they are surprised in itself. I didn't mind at all in my first year, as I was still somewhat of a tourist.

Maciamo
Oct 6, 2005, 14:53
Try working in finance. I knew people in the 5 year + club (maybe even 10+) that couldn't string a sentence together... at all.

Typical closed expat communities; basically people who come to Japan for work but not for the country, culture or people. I'd say that such expats (along with embassy staff) are a special case, and anyway a minority of the foreigners in Japan.


I mean... honestly, I think you can say similar things about 80-90% of the people around the world.

Honestly no. I have lived in England, Germany, Italy, Spain and Australia. In none of these countries were people surprised that I could speak their language (even after a few months). They just expect it. There were a few Italians surprised that I managed to speak so well Italian after just 1 month in Italy and almost without learning the language before, but the most surprised in that case was myself ! (and now I feel like I'd need to go back there and practice a bit to keep my level for the next few years, as it's getting far in my memory).


If you really don't like the way convesrations go with people, why not avoid conversing with them altogether?

Because sometimes I meet some people that are not like that (less than 5% though) and are great people with whom to discuss about Japanese culture, politics or whatever.

GaijinPunch
Oct 6, 2005, 15:02
In none of these countries were people surprised that I could speak their language (even after a few months).

I meant that average people in those countries couldn't communicate on the level that you deem necessary... not the language thing. Sorry if I was unclear.

mad pierrot
Oct 6, 2005, 17:44
Why am I surprised? Because for every one good Japanese speaker I meet, I come across fifty who struggle to even make basic conversation. And that includes people who have been here for several years. You really need to remove the huge chip on your shoulder and take peoples surprise as a compliment (which I'm sure it is often meant to be).

Furthermore, you always seem to place yourself above other people in regard to your mental powers of perception and reasoning. Frequently you've stated that if someone disagrees with you it's because they're not able to come up to your level, they don't understand or they can't think in the way that you do. I know that this might be hard for you, but have you ever considered that the reason they disagree with your view, is simply because you're wrong?

Actually, I think you're missing the point. I agree with Maciamo on this. Prime example: I recently started working at a Senior High School. On my first day, the principal introduced me to all my fellow teachers. He mentioned I had lived in Wakayama for two years and studied at Kansai Gaidai University. The following period I had lunch in the caf with them. I was asked, as usual...

Wow! You can speak Japanese?
You use chopstick?
You can eat nattou?

:banghead:

These are the same teachers who tell all their students that Americans only drink coke and eat hamburgers. And don't tell me it's because they don't know otherwise, because I knew the last American they worked with, and she was a counter-culture vegetarian liberal. And I still get told all Americans do this, all Americans love that.......

wtf??????

Kinsao
Oct 6, 2005, 17:50
Wow Maciamo, what looong posts :mad: but interesting to read! :cool:

But somehow, your discussion doesn't seem like the logical Maciamo we all know and love :?


Among the cultural or educational issues is that I attach a lot of importance in knowledge, analysis and rationality, while typical Japanese do not.

Would you not find this to be much of a generalisation? I'm not saying that people shouldn't generalise of course, but all the same... well, I am not in a position to dispute your statement, in fact, so I will say no more! Umm... is it really the case that the Japanese in general are known for lacking in knowledge, analysis and rationality?


I understand very well that it is why they would praise me about being able to use chopsticks or speak Japanese. What I am complaining about is justly that they cannot grasp that this may be insulting to logical people like me

So... I am slightly confused... you are aware that when people praise you for (for example) being able to use chopsticks, they are trying to be nice rather than insulting, yet you still feel insulted because they can't grasp why you feel insulted? :mad: I realise this is only a personal view, but if someone is trying to be kind to me, even if their kindness is somehow "off the mark" I find it very difficult to be insulted, because I know that this is not their intention! If they have been inadvertently insulting while trying to be nice - like in your case with the chopsticks - I simply feel sorry for them, thinking maybe "They have no manners even if their heart is in the right place".


In each case, if the other party cannot think 100% logically, they won't understand my position.

I have no wish to argue about this, that's not my meaning in quoting you here! I just thought it was an interesting statement because it raises the question "What is 100% logical?" I think the person who can define it must be a great philosopher who takes many volumes to answer the question! :p


If you wonder that, then your mind cannot think like mine (while I can, nevertheless, understand your position).

Forgive me, but it does seem big-headed to imply that always you can understand the other person's position but they can never understand yours (presumably because you are the only person whose mind works 100% logically?!).


I believe that Japanese society is blocked somewhere between level 1 and 4 (or a mixture of it), and due to cultural reasons (ultra-conformism, and group-mentality), cannot reach the Post-Conventional stage.

Does your idea of "logic" comprise putting everything in boxes or giving them labels? :o

I am not saying that that approach would be faulty... I am merely wondering whether or not it would be. Because, although I try to think logically, I am well aware that because of the physical/biological/chemical constraints of my brain, I am only able to do so in a very limited sense. So it could be that your approach is totally correct... I don't know. Is this a functional approach and on what levels can it function? I can't help feeling that some things must "fall down the cracks" :worried:

Again, a huge generalisation about Japanese society.


I believe that for some reasons linked to my personality and experience since birth, I have passed stages more quickly than ordinary people, and have reached stages 5 and 6

It seems that you have a very high opinion of your own intelligence. Of course, I am sure that you do in fact have a high intelligence, but sometimes it's better to be careful how you word things :blush: it's like you're saying you're "above"the "ordinary" level. Which may well be true, but if I were you I'd keep quiet about it!


That is why I feel it necessary to improve society as a whole, pinpoint at the political, economical or social problems in the country where I live (or others) so as to senibilise people about those issues and make them change, as I have explained in this thread.

Well, that's an admirable aim, because it's good to enable society (as a whole - of whatever country) to take note of its bad points and change for the better. And to tackle political, economical, social problems... it's difficult... and largely because it involves whole societies, which are of course composed of individuals yet work in totally different ways from individuals... :mad: It seems like you set yourself an epic task, on a heroic scale! But I would be wary of talking about "making" people change. You can't "make" people change in their minds, although of course you can try to persuade them in various ways. Once you start trying to change people, it's egotistical...


I cannot accept ways of thinking which are not logical. rational or go against my principles, whatever the country.

I would be very wary of saying "cannot accept ways of thinking which" ... anything! That road leads to prejudice, not tolerance.


Japanese people being culturally disposed not to think logically, and not to understand the feelings of somebody who think the way I do

Really???


Don't forget that I come from a country where most people need to be bilingual or trilingual (i.e. speak 2 or 3 languages at an advanced level) to get a job (and not just a good one, even supermarket cashier).

That does make a difference to attitudes. In the UK, where I live, it's actually unusual to find someone who speaks fluently a language other than English! People actually are surprised that I speak French - even though a large proportion of the population were made to learn it at school anyway! :worried: On the other hand, they are absolutely not surprised for a foreigner to learn English, because it is expected. I mean, everyone knows English... don't they? :? :lol:


Japanese being a relatively easy language to learn (few grammatical rules or irregularities, easy pronuciation), I would be surprised to meet somebody who has lived 4 years in Japan, lives with a native Japanese speaker, cannot at least speak conversational Japanese - especially if that person under 30.

I agree about that; I have only been learning Japanese an extremely short while but I can't see yet that it's any more difficult than a European language. It's the kanji that I think will be very difficult, but of course I could still learn speaking to a reasonable conversational level without being good at kanji (even if I would be illiterate!). Anyway, that's another thread! ;)

Personally, I would just not waste my time and energy in being insulted and offended, and simply thank my lucky stars that I could speak good Japanese.

I wave goodbye with a quotation from Thomas Jefferson:

"To put an absolute faith in reason is to overlook one essential step in the rational process: the possibility that you may be mistaken."

:wave:

mad pierrot
Oct 6, 2005, 18:02
I do believe there is a logical reason for this. I've got quite abit to say on this topic, but I've got work now, so it'll have to wait until later tonight.

Until then.....

:sorry:

nurizeko
Oct 6, 2005, 18:38
The only problem is im probably the typical gaijin, when it comes to botching upo japanese, i only know words, not really full sentences, and despite the fact im fairly familiar with japan, ive always found languages to not be my strongest hand.

It would be nice that if you use japanese, then the japanese should use it to but, thats life. :p

Maciamo
Oct 6, 2005, 19:46
But somehow, your discussion doesn't seem like the logical Maciamo we all know and love :?

No, that's just because it's a bit abstract and if you haven't lived in Japan and have had similar experiences (like Mad Pierrot :p ), it may be difficult to understand. Then there is the problem that I am forced to generalise (i.e. talk about the "biggest part of the population", not everybody) and what's more only based on my experience.


I simply feel sorry for them, thinking maybe "They have no manners even if their heart is in the right place".

It's not a matter of manners. I hate superficiality such as hypocritical manners. If they want to be well-disposed toward me (or have me well disposed toward them), they should reflect a bit about what kind of person I am from the information they already have (e.g. married to a Japanese and have lived in Japan for 4 years) before making strange compliments. To understand my feelings, just imagine that you went to France and people started complienting you on your being able to use a fork and knife. That would be quite baffling, wouldn't it ? Now, what if at least half the people you met in France did the same. Wouldn't you feel like complaining that it's not strange or surprising that you can also use a fork and a knife as you are not mentally retarded ? I feel exactly this way in Japan.


Forgive me, but it does seem big-headed to imply that always you can understand the other person's position but they can never understand yours (presumably because you are the only person whose mind works 100% logically?!).
...
It seems that you have a very high opinion of your own intelligence. Of course, I am sure that you do in fact have a high intelligence, but sometimes it's better to be careful how you word things :blush: it's like you're saying you're "above"the "ordinary" level. Which may well be true, but if I were you I'd keep quiet about it!

I am sorry, for once I will have not to keep too quiet about it as you are pushing me. First of all, I'd like to say that a greater intelligence is not always a good thing, and certainly does not make (social) life easier. If you want to know, I have taken several IQ tests and have been constantly tested as having an IQ superior to 99.99% of the population, ranging between 135 and 165 depending on the test - but it was always about crystalised, non-verbal IQ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iq). These IQ thus didn't test verbal or linguistic skills, memory, artistic abilities, etc. It's almost only about reasoning, logics, spatial skills, etc. So we cannot say that I learnt languages faster because of having a higher IQ.

I think my verbal IQ was more average (around 120). In fact, I was quite bad at learning languages at school, and I have only really started to like foreign languages and started learning by myself from about 17 years old. This contradicts the theory that young children learn more easily languages, as for in my case I found it easier after puberty.

The drawback of a high IQ is that people have difficult to understand some of your reasonings (or even feelings, like here) and may find you strangely obsessed by things that doesn't matter much for them. My own mother has never been able to understand me (to this day), although my father understands me much more easily, often without explanations needed. This is clearly because of the difference of IQ between them. Same with my wife, I can explain some (particularly complex ?) things again and again and she never seems to understand my point of view, while I understand hers before she even opens her mouth. I know I understand her, because I can explain with my own words what she means, and she says that it is exactly what she means, said better than could have said (although we almost only talk in Japanese, so I have the language disadvantage). I can give you many such examples of me understanding a person whereas they do not understand me at all. I am used to it since I was a child (but didn't know it was IQ-related until I was 20).

Researches have shown that it becomes very difficult for 2 individuals to understand each others once their IQ diverged by more than 30 points. There is a theory that such people almost belong to different species. Incidentally, the most gifted gorillas can have an IQ of up to 70 (maybe even more), i.e. as high or higher than 3% of the human population (people considered as mildly or severely retarded). Of course, that's only for reasoning skills.

Anyhow, you were asking me whether "it does seem big-headed to imply that always you can understand the other person's position but they can never understand yours". What do you think ?


I would be very wary of saying "cannot accept ways of thinking which" ... anything! That road leads to prejudice, not tolerance.

And is it better to tolerate everything in life, even the clearly negative aspects ? I think modern Western societies are putting too much importance on tolerance. Should we, for instance, tolerate religious or political extremism ?


It's the kanji that I think will be very difficult, but of course I could still learn speaking to a reasonable conversational level without being good at kanji (even if I would be illiterate!).

I also thought that the kanji would be the hardest part at first, but it ended up being one of the easiest, as I really liked (and still like) learning them. In fact, without the kanji, it would have taken me longer to acquire my current (passive) vocabulary in Japanese, as kanji compounds help guessing the meaning of unknown words, and even creating new ones quite easily.

Maciamo
Oct 6, 2005, 19:54
The only problem is im probably the typical gaijin, when it comes to botching upo japanese, i only know words, not really full sentences, and despite the fact im fairly familiar with japan, ive always found languages to not be my strongest hand.

But have you lived in Japan for several years and lived with a Japanese ?

Kara_Nari
Oct 6, 2005, 20:00
I can see your frustration Maciamo.
However, Japan isnt the only place that this happens.
In New Zealand, so many second or even third generation asians get the same looks of bewilderment.
More so the younger asians that have been born in New Zealand, or came at a young age. Of course their english is perfect, yet they will walk into a store and be spoken to veerrryyyyy sllloooowwwwwllllyyyyy, and for some strange reason, a lot louder than a usual spoken, inside voice.

On a daily basis they are asked how long they have been studying english for, and where are they from. "Im from New Zealand" "yes, yes, but where are you REALLY from" "New Zealand" "Where were you born though?" "I was born in New Zealand" "hahaha, but what are you?" "Im a New Zealander".

Sure people dont marvel over their knife and fork ability, or their ability to eat certain foods, but they are constantly being treated in this belittling manner, for looking like they dont belong.
Hmm maybe this has gone off on another tangent.

Anyway I was just trying to show that other countries have their funny little ways of dealing with a slightly different painted picture.

Mikawa Ossan
Oct 6, 2005, 20:01
Please let me apologize in advance if this gets too long. :bow:

OK, well...let's see...Maciamo, thanks for being such a sport about this.:bow: I wasn't anticipating such a response... :bluush:

To respond in not-perfect order,

You must be wondering : "Why does he know that the Japanese try to praise him and still get offended ?"
If you're talking to me, actually, no I'm not. I understand perfectly. I have been offended at the same thing. I also have gotten offended by people asking me to teach them English, as if every caucasian in Japan is here exclusively for that reason. At least , I used to to.

Somewhere down the line, I came to the realization that many times the people saying these things are just trying to make conversation. They're not REALLY surprised at the fact that you can use chopsticks, but they think it's a safe topic to start conversation. It's like talking about the weather, in that sense.

I find that sometimes I get complimented on my chopstick use in comparison to young Japanese, many of whom for some reason never learned the "correct" way to hold their chopsticks. I think of this more as an indirect insult of Japanese youth than a compliment of myself.

Just something to consider.

If you wonder that, then your mind cannot think like mine (while I can, nevertheless, understand your position).
I'm sure you didn't mean to, but this sounds condescending, and IMHO comes dangerously close to this statement you criticised some Japanese people of making:
"Japanese brains work differently and so it's very difficult for foreigners to learn Japanese..."


...(note that I am not confronting my country's culture against the Japanese one, but my personal culture/mindset against any culture in the world).
I'm sorry if I lead you to believe that I thought you were. I don't, although to be more specific, I do think that anyone's "personal culture/mindset" is heavily influenced by the culture you were reared and raised in. I hope you can agree with that. I think that if I personally was born and raised in Japan, I would be a very different person than I am today.


It can be explained by Kohlberg's stages of moral development. Ah, yes, Kohlberg. To be fair, I must admit that I personally don't really agree with his stages. But since you brought it up, something about the Wikpedia entry struck me.
In Stage six, moral reasoning is based on the use of abstract reasoning using universal ethical principles. One way to do this is by imagining oneself in everyone else's shoes, imagining what they would decide if they were doing the same.This sounded an awful lot like,
...the Japanese try to "read people's feelings" and say what they think would please a person from their point of view.Are Japanese people actually at stage 6 on Kohlberg's stages by any chance?

Since you bring up the issue of logic so much, I would like to point out that being a human being, it' pretty much impossible for ANYONE on the face of Earth to be 100% logical. Yes, some people can be more logical than others, but even if you are comparatively logical, it's not the same as being 100% so. If ever you let emotions influence your judgement or actions, you are not being 100% logical. At least, not in my opinion. :p


In fact, when I first came to Japan, I didn't even suspect that the Japanese could discriminate against well-behaving Westerners interested in their country.Ah, but you see, I was the exact opposite. The first time I went to Japan, it was partly to meet the parents of my girlfriend/fiancee. I knew her father was at least 60 years old and retired, so I came prepared for the worst. I was convinced that he'd hate me for "stealing" his daughter. When we first met, I immediately said the Japanese I had worked so hard to memorize, even though I had no idea what it meant, 「今後ともどうぞよろしくお願いします」. He just grunted and didn't say a word. (Looking back, I almost certainly murdered the pronunciation, and he probably had no idea what I was trying to say. :souka: )

He didn't really talk to me much at all until one day we were playing "hasami shougi" (kind of like checkers for those who don't know) and I solidly beat him. For some reason, I felt playful, so I said, 「お父さん、頭わるい!」with a big smile. (That was about the extent of my Japanese at the time.) He looked at me for a moment and then broke up laughing! Ever since, we got along just great. Right up until his daughter and I separated.... But I digress.


Had is been only for that, I could have dismissed it as a special case. But the longer I stayed in Japan, the more I gained confidence to address locals in Japanese (without my wife's presence), and the more I realised that this was a quite common attitude. I could go to the dry cleaning, several bento shops, ask something at the station, the immediate reaction of most people over 40 (and some younger too) was to "freeze" and make gestures assuming that I was not speaking Japanese. With younger people, they typically responded by this expression of surprise that "eventhough I was only a gaijin, I managed to learn their difficult language".My first reaction to this was, "I wonder what your pronunciation sounds like." I say this because I have encountered a couple of foreigners who spoke reasonably good Japanese gramatically, but it took me a while to figure out what they were saying because of their pronunciation. I have heard my own recorded voice speaking Japanese on occasion, and I was surprised at how different it sounds to me from native speakers. Maybe your pronunciation played a part in your experience.

There was more I was going to say, but this has already gotten quite lengthy. I just want to close in saying that just today alone, I went to the local JA to renew my auto insurance and I talked to someone from the local Asahi newspaper office trying to get me to subscribe (even though I already do. hehe). None of the people involved seemed the least bit suprised that I speak or read Japanese or treated me with anything other than respect.

I will admit though, that I overheard the girl who helped me at the JA say to her colleagues, 「どきどきするね!」 :relief:

Mikawa Ossan
Oct 6, 2005, 20:06
I also thought that the kanji would be the hardest part at first, but it ended up being one of the easiest, as I really liked (and still like) learning them. In fact, without the kanji, it would have taken me longer to acquire my current (passive) vocabulary in Japanese, as kanji compounds help guessing the meaning of unknown words, and even creating new ones quite easily.
I found the same to be true. :wave:

Maciamo
Oct 6, 2005, 20:23
More so the younger asians that have been born in New Zealand, or came at a young age. Of course their english is perfect, yet they will walk into a store and be spoken to veerrryyyyy sllloooowwwwwllllyyyyy, and for some strange reason, a lot louder than a usual spoken, inside voice.

That's very weird for an immigration country with a big Asian community (and tiny total population).



On a daily basis they are asked how long they have been studying english for, and where are they from. "Im from New Zealand" "yes, yes, but where are you REALLY from" "New Zealand" "Where were you born though?" "I was born in New Zealand" "hahaha, but what are you?" "Im a New Zealander".

The question is not properly formulated in the first place. If they want to know about someone's ethnic origin, they should ask where is their family/ancestors' country of origin. This question could be asked by locals and tourists alike to anybody living in NZ, Australia or North America, except for the aborigenes or "natives". I am also interested in the ethnical origins of Americans or Oceanians, just by curiosity or to try to see if I could guess right from their features.

Mike Cash
Oct 6, 2005, 20:59
But have you lived in Japan for several years and lived with a Japanese ?

Let's be fair, now. You haven't done that first bit yourself yet.

Maciamo
Oct 6, 2005, 21:28
They're not REALLY surprised at the fact that you can use chopsticks, but they think it's a safe topic to start conversation. It's like talking about the weather, in that sense.

And do you find this a good topic to start a conversation ? Everytime they say that (or any other pseudo-compliment), I am at a loss to what to respond. Shall I say "oh, you know, I worked hard on it everyday", or "oh, it just came naturally" or just "thank you" ? Anyway, that wouldn't lead to much conversation. Considering that people who praised me on my chopstick use were generally my wife's acquaintances, my wife was there too, we had been introduced, they knew more or less who I was and what I did in Japan, and they could have easily used her to facilitate the conversation in the cases when we were not already discussing. Sometimes such remarks come after I have known the person for a while and we have already discussed about many things. Then, when we end up eating together, this remarks comes up inevitably. My wife now explains that I don't like this kind of compliments, but they usually look even more surprised and try to justify themselves by saying that they truly believe that using chopsticks is not so easy (!!??). Upon which, I try to change the topic. :relief: :-) Same for the questions like "can you eat sushi" or "does your country have 4 season".



This sounded an awful lot like, Are Japanese people actually at stage 6 on Kohlberg's stages by any chance?

Do you mean that the Japanese feel above the law and social conventions because they believe in universal ethics ? I am yet to meet such Japanese. I think the explanation on Wikipedia about "being in someone's shoes" is a bit misleading. If they indeed were like that, why would I be complaining about them not trying to understand my feelings ? Their responses seem automated with such regularity that it feels almost stereotypical. This is one of the most amazing thing for me about Japan, how people's reactions are predictable. They care so much about not going astray from the well-harmonised social conventions that they often have a hard time expressing what they really think (or even realising what their own opinion is, as I noticed with my wife).

In the Japanese society, there are fixed expressions for almost every social situation, and almost everyone uses exactly in the same situation. People greet you in shops with an "irasshaimse", not by a "konnichiwa" or "yokoso". When you meet someone, you always start with "hajimemashite" and after being introduced you say "dozo yoroshiku onegai shimase". When you enter someone's home, you say "o-jama shimasu". No normal Japanese would think of saying something else in these situations. There is only one "right answer". I would call it the routine of conventions, and I believe that asking foreigners whether they can eat sushi, use chopsticks, etc. is part of these conventions. This is also why I think it can be changed.

Like Mad Pierrot said, typical Japanese teachers will tell pupils exactly the same thing about foreigners, even if they should know better from their personal experience. In the last few months, I have tried to ask as many people as possible about what they were taught at school. So far it has been nearly 100% consistent about these fallacies or stereotypes. They are taught that :

- Japan is unique for having 4 seasons
- Westerners all speak English
- Westerners are predominantly of blood-group "O", while Japanese are predominantly "A". The explanation given is always that the Japanese were farmers since ancient times, while Westerners were hunters. An alternative explanation is that the Japanese were vegetarian until Meiji, while Westerners were always heavy meat-eaters. They are also taught that the Chinese are predominantly of group "B", and that "B" people have a stronger ('more anti-social') personality.

I have explained this in more detail in my article Common Japanese misconceptions regarding foreigners and foreign countries (http://www.wa-pedia.com/culture/misconceptions_prejudices.shtml). I wrote the article 7 months ago based on everything I had heard times and again till then. I have tried to confirm it as much as I could since then, and all the people I diplomatically questioned did confirm it. I invite you to try to find out among your Japanese acquaintances too (just try to bring up the subject, bring them to ask you the relevant questions, then ask them where they heard about the "farmers vs hunters" theory, and whether they learned that at school or not).


If ever you let emotions influence your judgement or actions, you are not being 100% logical. At least, not in my opinion.

Emotions are often opposed to cold rationality. But logics isn't exactly the same as rationality. Anyway, we need emotions to think, to wonder, to doubt, to question. Without emotions, we would just be computers and not do anything from our own initiative. I believe that it is possible to combine some kind of emotions with very logical thinking, as you as you are not taken over by the emotions only. It is very possible to get angry because someone you discuss with won't argue logically (it is typically the case of blinded religious believers).


My first reaction to this was, "I wonder what your pronunciation sounds like." I say this because I have encountered a couple of foreigners who spoke reasonably good Japanese gramatically, but it took me a while to figure out what they were saying because of their pronunciation.

As a native French speaker, I have no problem rendering any sound found in Japanese (except the "h" for typical French speakers, but it's not a problem for me, as it also exists in English, Dutch or German). French speakers are some of the Westerners who have the easiest to pronouce Japanese (however the Japanese have a tough time pronoucing French, as French has many more sounds). English or German vowels and consonnant are very different from Japanese. A Japanese "k" or "p" is weaker than a Germanic one. But French consonnant are basically the same. Vowels too, except the Japanese "u" which is half-way between the French "u" and "ou" (closer to the "u" actually, which doesn't exist in English). My wife, and other people, say that my pronuciation is about the same as a native Japanese. Pronuciation is one of my strong points when learning languages. English and French pronuciation are extremely different, but no English speaker would guess that I am a French speaker (although they could hear that I am not a native speaker, but cannot tell from where, and some have asked me whether I was Scandinavian as that's the closest pronuciation to English).

So I really don't think that my pronuciation was the issue when the many Japanese who "froze" when I talked to them. It was just that they forced themselves to think that I could not possibly be speaking Japanese. When I talk to Japanese friends in Japanese, I never have to repeat one time what I say for them to understand, except if I use the wrong word or mistake in the grammar (that rarely happens in "small talks").

I also want to say that it happens from time to time that people do not look surprised that I speak Japanese. Sometimes they do not look surprise but still try to talk back in English to me, until they see that communication is easier in Japanese.

mad pierrot
Oct 6, 2005, 22:10
What really troubles me are the types of questions Japanese people ask foreigners. As Mikawa Ossan said, I'm sure some of these dumb questions are directed at making conversation. Then again, you can make conversation about anything, why make it about foreigner's deficiencies?

So why the hell do they ask them? (A.K.A., Can you use chopsticks, speak Japanese, sit seiza, eat nattou, drink tea, whatever.)

I think the reason is cultural identity. It's all about securing their cultural ID. Think about it. All those questions have something to do with Japanese culture. From a very young age it's instilled that Japanese culture is very unique. They're raised being taught how special Japan is. And of course they're right. Japan is special. I think the problem is in emphasizing how special it is they go way overboard. (I've observed this from working at 14 schools over 2 years.) Quite frankly, many of the things that made Japan so unique 50 years ago don't apply anymore today, but they're still being taught them. In order to make Japan seem more special, alot of stereotypes about foreign countries are perpetuated. So you get kids in grade school being taught something like this:

In Japan people love sushi, and eat fish.
In America people eat hamburgers, and eat beef.

The problem is they go overboard and you get people thinking all Americans eat beef and never eat fish, let alone sushi. No joke. I don't know how many times I get a surprised reaction when I tell people I love fish and ate it everyday in America. The list goes on:

Japan has a rainy season. Japan is very humid.
So.....
America doesn't have a rainy season. America is very dry.

And so on and so forth.

Since they get this kind of thinking programmed into their brains at a very young age, they have all kind of bizarre expectations about foreigners. Worst still, I think some people actually get insulted when foreigners fail to live up to their expectations. The was a great story in Kansai Time Out a few years ago about a man living in Kobe. He had been living in Japan for over ten years and quite naturally spoke Japanese well. One day outside of a store, he was stopped by a Japanese man who wanted to speak English with him. He declined politely in Japanese. The Japanese man failed repeatedly attempting to draw him into converstion, getting angrier as time went on. The episode ended with the Japanese guy storming off, yelling at the foreigner to "go home" and such.

This sort of thing has nevered happened to me. However, I did have a similar experiences with co-workers. A fellow teacher liked to repeatedly ask me what "Japanese" things I could do. Yes, I know a little about tea ceremony. Yes, I've tried Judo and Aikido. Yes, I know about the legend of Yoshitsune, etc, etc. He would come up with a different question everyday. Every time I answered "yes," he would walk away disappointedly. When I finally answered "no" to one of his questions, he smiled broadly and annouced it to the entire room. I'm not making this up.

In a nutshell, I disagree with this line of thinking.


Because for every one good Japanese speaker I meet, I come across fifty who struggle to even make basic conversation. And that includes people who have been here for several years.

Why? I agree there are quite a few people who come to Japan not being able to speak Japanese and never bother to learn. But, from my two years in the JET programme, my time with ECC and with private students, and my time at Kansai University, and with friends and family who have come to visit me, I have found gaijin overwhelmingly able to use chopsticks, eat raw fish, etc. Even my grouchy old obasan from the Mid-West could eat nattou. Which is why I scoff whenever a Japanese person tells me it's "rare" that a foreigner can eat sushi....

In sum, I think their own warped perceptions about Japan that color their behavior.


Damn that was long.

:relief:

Maciamo
Oct 6, 2005, 22:46
I completely agree and emphatize with everything you said, Mad Pierrot. :cool:


The problem is they go overboard and you get people thinking all Americans eat beef and never eat fish, let alone sushi. No joke. I don't know how many times I get a surprised reaction when I tell people I love fish and ate it everyday in America. The list goes on:

Yesterday again, as I told one of the students that I had been to Shanghai, he asked me what kind of food people ate there (typical question from a Japanese) and when I told him that there were, among others, Japanese restaurants, including sushi, his reaction was "But the Chinese don't like raw fish. I saw on TV that the Chinese never eat raw fish". (sic !) And he seemed really confused and in disbelief that there could indeed be sushi restaurants in a 13-million people metropolis like Shanghai, just across the sea from Japan.

I come across this kind of heavily stereotypical reactions, I lie not, several times a week. Sometimes to make them understand, I have to tell them things like "but don't Japanese people also eat Chinese, French, Italian or American food ?", "Isn't it true that some Japanese people do not like sushi or natto ?", "Out of 1.3 billion Chinese, why is it surprising that some people may like sushi ?". I think that people who haven't lived in Japan and do not meet a variety of Japanese people all the time (as language teachers do), probably cannot imagine how widespread this phenomenon is. It's not something you hear once in a while; it's a national phenomenon caused by the education system, as Mad Pierrot as explained so well.



This sort of thing has nevered happened to me. However, I did have a similar experiences with co-workers. A fellow teacher liked to repeatedly ask me what "Japanese" things I could do. Yes, I know a little about tea ceremony. Yes, I've tried Judo and Aikido. Yes, I know about the legend of Yoshitsune, etc, etc. He would come up with a different question everyday. Every time I answered "yes," he would walk away disappointedly. When I finally answered "no" to one of his questions, he smiled broadly and annouced it to the entire room. I'm not making this up.

Everytime I meet my mother-in-law's boyfriend, it's like that. :relief:

The last time we went to the restaurant together (with the family), he again tried to find things that I couldn't do like the Japanese, didn't know about Japan or that didn't exist in Europe. It was a kaiseki restaurant, and at the end of the meal came a strange kind of tiny potato (about the size of a blueberry). He asked me whether I knew this or if we had this in Europe. I answered that I had never seen that before to his utter rejoicement. But then my wife and her mother also said that they also didn't know such a potato existed ! :D


But, from my two years in the JET programme, my time with ECC and with private students, and my time at Kansai University, and with friends and family who have come to visit me, I have found gaijin overwhelmingly able to use chopsticks, eat raw fish, etc. Even my grouchy old obasan from the Mid-West could eat nattou. Which is why I scoff whenever a Japanese person tells me it's "rare" that a foreigner can eat sushi....

I usually illustrate this to my Japanese acquaintances (almost all of them on the topic of "sushi and natto", as I can't remembered not being asked about it by someone) by giving them the statistics from JREF (this poll (http://www.wa-pedia.com/forum/showthread.php?t=276) and that one (http://www.wa-pedia.com/polls.shtml), with respectively 43% and 55% of the respondants choosing sushi as their favourite Japanese dish). Maybe I should carry a print of the polls all the time with me. :p


EDIT : as I was watching the weather forecast on NHK 10 min ago, they exceptionally showed the weather for the world. It only lasted 3 seconds though. I was shocked to hear that the guy just said "yo-roppa wa hare", as it was possible to have the same weather all over Europe (what's more, the map showed clouds almost everywhere). This, I think, summarise well the Japanese way of seeing the rest of the world as a series of homogenous continent. The way they think that all Europeans are alike, they don't even make an effort to distinguish the main regions for the weather. If they had little time to review the world's weather on BBC or CNN, they would say something like "15 degree and cloudy in London, 21 degree and sunny in New York..." giving city names, but never a whole continent as it's just senseless.

Indeed, I realised that the weather was always only about Japan, contrarily to other Asian countries, where they normally show the weather for all East Asia too (e.g. on China's CCTV). They could at least show the weather for Korea and China, as thousands of Japanese business people and tourists fly there everyday. They just don't. Nice proof of ethno-centrism.

Mikawa Ossan
Oct 6, 2005, 23:32
Thank you Mad Pierrot for your thoughts! I'll try to respond in the next day or so. (If you can't tell, I love this topic!)

Everytime they say that (or any other pseudo-compliment), I am at a loss to what to respond.Well, I don't know what makes you comfortable, but I usually make a joke about how I've forgotten how to use a knife and fork. (Which is a lie, by the way. I've NEVER known how to properly use them. :blush:) It usually gets a good reaction.

As far as the conversations that can come, let me try to remember some of my own...
How I first learned how to use them. Leading to talking about study-abroad.
How Japanese youth can't seem to use chopsticks "properly", leading to general talk of the youth.
How I was too stubborn to listen to my parents as a child, so now I still hold knives and forks like a 3 year old child.
What Japanese restaurants are like in the USA.
Why do we call them "chopsticks" in English anyway?
(The post I made some time ago about) how sushi is not "really supposed" to be eaten by chopsticks.
The difference among Japanese, Korean, and Chinese chopsticks.
I'm sure there's more.

Reference is made to my chopstick ability less and less as time moves on. Every so often, I'll be eating with someone, and after a while they'll suddenly seem to notice. It's kind of like, "Oh yeah, that's right, you're a foreigner..." At any rate, I've noticed that once it's been used, it rarely if ever gets recycled on a later date as a conversation starter. Truly, I think it's not important enough to get offended over.

For the "can you eat sushi" question, on the rare instances I get that, I always like to say how popular sushi actually is among certain sections of the US population.

For the "does your country have 4 seasons" question...I'm sure I've been asked before, but I honestly can't think of any instances at the moment.

But seriously, why not ask these questions, even if they are meaningless? In English, we often ask, "how are you?" even when we don't REALLY want to know. We ask other equally meaningless questions on numerous occasions. It's just a part of human interaction. Japanese do it among themselves all the time, too. I'm sure you'll agree with me on that. Why is it any worse when they do the same thing to us?

This is hard for me to argue, because I really honestly don't think it's important enough to get upset about. Even though I sometimes used to get upset, somehow, it all just "bounces off of me" nowadays.


Do you mean that the Japanese feel above the law and social conventions because they believe in universal ethics ?No, I mean that I think it's silly point to try to make. To put it more bluntly, are you trying to imply that your sense of morality is superior to general Japanese morality just because in your opinion your own morality ranks "higher" on some arbitrary scale that (seems to me) is based entirely on a Western mind-set? It was my way of trying to defuse the indignation I felt at your remarks. I'm sorry I wasn't more direct. I'll stop here.


They care so much about not going astray from the well-harmonised social conventions that they often have a hard time expressing what they really think...I can see how you think this, but it's not my experience. I don't it any different in essence from life where I come from originally. There's something call the "Minnesota nice" that's strikingly similar to the "honne/tatemae" dichotomy, at least in my mind. Where I come from, it's generally understood that there are times when you just don't say what you really think because it's just not worth the consequences. I see a lot of the same reasoning in Japan.


In the Japanese society, there are fixed expressions for almost every social situation, and almost everyone uses exactly in the same situation...I'm sorry, I don't see the problem. As far as the "routine of conventions" being susceptible to change is concerned, I agree with you in essence, but I don't think we should hope to see it in our lifetimes. Also, I feel that although we can and do influence this change ever so slightly in our daily interactions, I think that it is wrong for any of us to try to impose our own personal beliefs on another culture as a whole. For any of us to think that our ideas are inherently better than the Japanese is extremely egocentric. On a smaller scale, you and I are both foreigners, but we have difference in opinions, too. For example, the right to vote. I believe in universal human rights, too, but I apply them differently than you. Who's to say who's right? You? Why are you more qualified than me? Me? Why am I more qualified than you?


Like Mad Pierrot said, typical Japanese teachers will tell pupils exactly the same thing about foreigners, even if they should know better from their personal experience.So your beef is with the teachers, and not the Japanese as a whole then, right? I find it hard to logically get upset with someone who's merely confirming whether what they've been taught is true or not. This is in reference to the first point I addressed in this post.

The 3 examples you listed are interesting.

-4 seasons. I don't think that it's so much that children are taught that Japan is unique (i.e. the only place in the world where this happens) in this respect, but rather that not every place on Earth has 4 four distinct seasons, so it's one thing (of several) that makes Japan special.

-Westerners=English
I think it's more of a "everyone everywhere learns English at least to a limited extent" kind of thing. As far as Westerners are concerned, I would say that as the overwhelming majority of us here in Japan seem to be able to speak English, I think it's very reasonable to come to this conclusion and gloss over the facts a little.

-blood type
This struck me as funny because just last week my co-workers were trying to convince me that the majority of Americans had in fact type A blood as I do. That was the first time I'd heard of that, so I can't comment further.


It is very possible to get angry because someone you discuss with won't argue logically (it is typically the case of blinded religious believers).I'll grant you this, but is it more logical to get angry or to stop trying to argue with someone who won't listen to you anyway?


So I really don't think that my pronuciation was the issue when the many Japanese who "froze" when I talked to them.Well, respectfully, I'm not convinced. However,it may well be that your pronunciation had nothing to do with anything. How about your intonation? Your manner of speach? Do you use words and phrases that are not common? How about your body language? Something about the way you dress? There are any number of possible contributing factors.


I also want to say that it happens from time to time that people do not look surprised that I speak Japanese. Sometimes they do not look surprise but still try to talk back in English to me, until they see that communication is easier in Japanese.Yes, but understand that the people I mentioned in my previous post didn't even bother trying to use English. Not a single word.

I think there's something else going on there, and I'm truly curious as to what it is. Maybe I'm a freak of nature in my experiences, but I have had my share of exeriences similar to yours. I think you might find that the less you try to mould Japan into your ideal, the less the Japanese will treat you as a foreigner. This is my theory.

I just looked at the Post Preview...wow, long!:gomen:

GaijinPunch
Oct 7, 2005, 08:13
Yesterday again, as I told one of the students that I had been to Shanghai, he asked me what kind of food people ate there (typical question from a Japanese) and when I told him that there were, among others, Japanese restaurants, including sushi, his reaction was "But the Chinese don't like raw fish. I saw on TV that the Chinese never eat raw fish".

You seriuosly need to broaden your scope of acquaintances. The stories you do indeed paint a picture, but your obviously missing out on a lot.

You're giving people that haven't been to Japan a view askew that Japanese people are in some way incapable of thought. They are just as smart and stupid as any other race... yours and mine included.

Silverpoint
Oct 7, 2005, 09:37
And do you find this a good topic to start a conversation ? Everytime they say that (or any other pseudo-compliment), I am at a loss to what to respond. Shall I say "oh, you know, I worked hard on it everyday", or "oh, it just came naturally" or just "thank you" ?

Maciamo, it strikes me (and I'm sure I'm not the only one) that as this debate has continued your arguments have become more and more desperate due to your absolute refusal ever to concede a point to anyone, or revise your view based on other peoples comments.

What on earth are you doing now? Condemning the Japanese because in a situation which many people find a little awkward (i.e. meeting people for the first time), they say a slightly clumsy opening line in the conversation in order to ingratiate themselves. For God's sake man, I'm sure people would have a lot more respect for your view if you just said "Ok, maybe I'm overreacting a bit here" instead of having to pursue these increasingly ridiculous rebuttals just to try and save face in an argument in which clearly your opinion is in the minority.

I could apply your argument to absolutely anything. If someone said to me "nice weather today", should I in the same way feel upset and insulted because I've been living on this earth for 32 years, and I'm intelligent enough to know for myself if the weather is good or not. And they should be well aware of that.

Elizabeth
Oct 7, 2005, 10:37
Japanese people in general make much less chit chat and unnecessary filler conversation than Americans, that much at least I'm eternally grateful for.
I've never been asked by a Japanese store clerk "How are you doing today?" proceeding to describe their life situation in great detail or a Japanese airline attendent why I'm studying instead of paying enough attention to the movie selections. :p

Conventional responses may structure an interaction, but they aren't necessary limitations and anyone that has something interesting or important to say can move beyond them. Naturally, there is also a certain level of boredom with these answers which competes with the desire to make the other person comfortable and meet them on a compatible level of graciousness and modesty. I seriously can't see the big deal about too many thank you's or welcomes. :souka:

Maciamo
Oct 7, 2005, 11:02
You seriuosly need to broaden your scope of acquaintances.

I am sorry if I am not introduced to more people who react different. Let me tell you more about what kind of people I usually meet in Tokyo.

I have met and discussed with maybe 250 people for my job (I teach one to one, or small groups lessons), and maybe 80 friends of my wife (she has a lot of them, already 50 that came to our wedding party). In both groups, they are mostly in their mid-20's to late 30's.

Among my wife's female friends, less are university-educated (maybe just 2-year college or just highschool), many are housewives or work part-time. Among her male friends, there are all kind of people, from petrol station attendant to company director.

90% of my students (about 50% male, 50% female) are university-educated and have "good jobs" in finance (banking, securities, insurance), IT, medicine, telecommunication, or are some managers or directors of some kind. Among the women, about 1/3 are housewives or work part-time. I have had two hostesses too.

In both groups, I can see a correlation between the social status and education level and the number of stupid remarks or beliefs. Non-university educated people or people with "normal jobs" tend to be the worst, except if they have lived abroad (not always though). I have also taught 3 flight attendants (so well-travelled), 3 lawyers, 1 university professor and 1 CEO of a quite big company, but I can't complain about them at all. Some of the people in finance are also clever or well-educated enough not to ask dumb questions, but only about 1/3. All in all, I can say that amongst these 300+ people, 80 to 90% of them have many strong (false) stereotypes about "other countries" and especially Westerners.

I haven't discussed about the blood group issue ("hunter vs farmer theory" - which I think is a racist theory of nihonjinron) with most of them (maybe only 50 people), but I haven't met a single person (not even those with a very good knowledge of the West and excellent education) that did not believe in this blatantly false myth (see here for details (http://www.wa-pedia.com/culture/misconceptions_prejudices.shtml#Farmers)). Of course they were taught about it at school (why ? if not for racist and nationalistic purposes ?) but had they but a little sense of critical thinking they should see that it is just not possible (first of all Japan was not an agricultural country until after the fall of the Roman Empire).

Last month, a doctor (PhD) in medicine working in genetical research, also told me about this absurd theory. I asked her if she learnt that during her medical studies, but she said that it was in primary school. So, eventhough she has the specialist knowledge to understand how ridiculous and racist this theory is, she never questioned it as it was inculcated in her mind at a very young age. After our discussion, she understood that she was mistaken (probably ashamed too), but it took 15 min of historical explanations, and she would come back with even more misguided arguments such as "But Europeans always ate meat, while the Japanese were vegetarian" To which I had to explain that until recently meat was a luxury even in the West, and that some medieval peasant never ate meat as they couldn't afford it. But in Japan, only 4-legged animals were prohibited bu Buddhism, and fish and chicken was eaten, at least by well-off people (like in Europe). This doctor had plenty of other prejudiced ideas or misconceptions about the West (or about China, as we also discussed that).

So, I really have to talk to a selected part of the elite (visibly a PhD in medicine is not enough) to find some decent people that do not look surprise because "my country has four seasons", "there are as many A as O blood-types in both Europe and Japan", "some Chinese and Westerners also like sushi" or I can read the kanji on my electronic dictionary during the lesson.
It's not related to their travel experience either, as I have only met 2 or 3 people who had never been abroad among my students (more amongst my wife's friends though - which is probably normal as a good deal of those who study English are interested in travelling/studying/living abroad).

Don't even get me started about elderly people ! My grand-mother-in-law is a good example... I won't say more...

So what shall I do ? Close my eyes on the reality ? Turn a deaf ear to all the weird things I hear ? Sometimes I can, but some issue (like this hunter vs farmer thing) really get on my nerves and make me fume.

Ever since I was a child, I have doubted the veracity of some of the things I were taught (at school or by my parents) and asked for "proofs" if I was not convinced. That's how I already had arguments with my religion teacher when I was 6 years old (quite precocious, but frankly how can you be made to believe that "the heart is the symbol of goodness, and at the same time that god decided that those on his rights were the good/chosen ones, so why if god made us, did he choose to place our heart to the left". This is just one of the reasonings of my childhood, but I am digressing).

So how can't even well-educated and intelligent Japanese not know such basic things ! Why should a well-travelled businessman ask me if we have 4 seasons in Europe, when he has been there several times ?! Don't Japanese know that the European concept of Christmas (which the Japanese love to copy) is associated with snow because Christmas is in December ? Don't they make the connection between what they see/hear in the news in Japan (e.g. "heat wave hit Europe, many die in France", "Forest fire in Spain", "recored 38.5'C in London", etc.) with the fact that summers can be hot in summer. They all know that if it's hot in summer and cold in winter, temperatures have to change in between. They know that countries like the Netherlands are famous for tulips in Spring. All the Japanese I have met knew that (maybe because of the famous Huis ten Bosch "Dutch village" theme park near Nagasaki). They have all seen dozens of movies which are set in various European countries. They all have the information necessary, but can't think by themsevles. I just can't understand that.

I cannot even turn a deaf ear, as quite a few really doubted what I said (eehhh, honto ka ?") when I explained that all European countries had 4 seasons. To show their disbelief, they ask if we have snow in winter (:angeryfire:), cherry blossoms in spring or hot summer. Wtf ! Like Mad Pierrot said, they look really disappointed when I tell them that "yes, we do have even cherry blossoms in Europe, although not as many trees well aligned along the canals like in Tokyo". I think they instinctively know the answers to their questions, but prefer to believe what they are told, as it makes them feel that their country is 'special' or even 'better'. How many times haven't I heared people saying "Nihon ni umarete yokatta" or "I was so lucky to be born in Japan". When I ask why, they typically reply "We have cherry blossoms in Japan" or "We are lucky to be born in a rich and safe country with a good education system". to which I can only scoff.

As we are at it, another typical stereotypes (which was true during the late 1980s'), is that Japan is a rich and expensive country. Nowadays it sounds almost as true as "Americans don't eat fish but burgers". Japan ranks only 17th for the GDP per capita (well behind the USA), and things in Japan are usually much cheaper than in Northern Europe (except imported European goods, obviously). That's another kind of misconception that make Japanese feel good about their country. They just can't see that things change with time. Most of their steeotypes about the West seem to have been forged just after WWII (probably during the US occupation). Yet, this one is only 20 years old. So they really choose whatever sounds advantageous to them, and when there is nothing, they invent it (eg. hunter/farmer theory). Why do they do that ? Is it to satisfy a sense of inferiority or insecurity ?

Maciamo
Oct 7, 2005, 11:43
Maciamo, it strikes me (and I'm sure I'm not the only one) that as this debate has continued your arguments have become more and more desperate due to your absolute refusal ever to concede a point to anyone, or revise your view based on other peoples comments.

Maybe I am a bit obssessive-compulsive on this. But I have to live with it everyday, so sometimes I need to "release the steam". Note that when I don't reply to a comment, It means that I tacitly agree. Because the proverb "Silence implies consent" means a lot to me, I have to say something if I do not fully agree. So far I have been goving backgrounders, not really disageeing. I thank Mikawa Ossan for his examples of how to deal with the chopstick situation. I admit that humour is not a typical way of mine to escape awkward situations. I'd rather explain my way of thinking so that they at least know how I feel about it. I am a teacher, so believe in education. I just can't let people live with heavy misconceptions. It's as much my job/duty to correct them on this than on the language itself. I know from experience (e.g. with my wife) that it pays to explain these things.



What on earth are you doing now? Condemning the Japanese because in a situation which many people find a little awkward (i.e. meeting people for the first time), they say a slightly clumsy opening line in the conversation in order to ingratiate themselves.

As you can see in my post above, most of these "awkward situations" did not happen when I first met someone. Sometimes it was months after I had met the person for at least one hour every week. I usually don't go to the restaurant with people I hardly know (except my wife's friends). How would you explain that my "father-in-law", which I know very well, still ask all kind of questions to try to find things for which Japan or Japanese people are unique ?


For God's sake man, I'm sure people would have a lot more respect for your view if you just said "Ok, maybe I'm overreacting a bit here" instead of having to pursue these increasingly ridiculous rebuttals just to try and save face in an argument in which clearly your opinion is in the minority.

I am not overreacting and I am not trying to save face. I am trying to make other people understand what I want them to understand. I told you, I believe in education. My methods may be non-conformist, but that's because I am non-conformist.


I could apply your argument to absolutely anything. If someone said to me "nice weather today", should I in the same way feel upset and insulted because I've been living on this earth for 32 years, and I'm intelligent enough to know for myself if the weather is good or not. And they should be well aware of that.

Not really. When someone say "nice weather today", they just want to share their present feelings, or ask for a confirmation from the other party. Note that weather is independent from any party involved. It is different from complimenting somebody on things that do not need compliment, and thus making them feel awkard.

What I hated particularily in my first few months in Japan was when someone would say "oh, nihongo jouzu desu ne" while I was struggling to make a sentence. This time it's not about complimenting something that should be natural, but the opposite "complimenting someone who is not good at something". I sometimes wonder if their aim was to make fun of me, as they didn't have to make a remark stressing my poor skills. Interestingly, I haven't hear that "oh, nihongo jouzu desu ne" since I became reasonably fluent, which somehow proves that it was not a real compliment. Now, they just say "oh, you can speak Japanese" or "oh, you can read kanji". But it's still out of place when they say that after I have just said one sentence or read some very easy kanji (you know, those that we all know after a month in Japan).

The other way round is better, IMO. They could have shown their surprised at my reading a few simple kanji after I just arrived in Japan, while now that my Japanese is decent, they could say "oh, nihongo jouzu desu ne" (but only after a real conversation, and given I didn't mistake too much - NOT after a "konnichiwa" !). The opposite, knowing about my background, is trying to make fun of me or underestimate me (almost the same thing).

It's interesting to have this discussion with you, because if you too cannot understand the difference between saying "nice weather today" and doing so false compliment, it means that there are more people than I thought who can't distinguish between clearly different feelings.

The discussion about misconceptions is yet a different thing, although related. It is not about sharing a feeling ("nice weather today"), and not about complimenting ("oh, you can use chopsticks/read kanji, sugoooii !"). It is about a person's knowledge or conception of the world. In that case, I do not feel insulted or take it personally, I just can't believe what I hear. I feel sorry for them, and wonder how on earth an education system could deprive people of their critical sense to this extend. I said it was related to the "false complimenting" because it only happens because of such miscnceptions (here, "foreigners cannot speak Japanese, even after living several years in Japan, because Japanese is so unique and Japanese brains so different, because Japanese society was agricultural well before agriculture was invented, and Westerners were just axe-wielding barbarian hunters !" :okashii: ).

It's important to try to understand what a person's conception of the world is to understand why they say things they say. I have been digging on this for at least 2 years now. There is such a thing as a common Japanese "world view". It is instilled to children since their tenderest age, and include all the misconceptions listed here (http://www.wa-pedia.com/culture/misconceptions_prejudices.shtml).
My aim is to dispel the myths, for everybody's good, and help improving relations between Japan and "the outside".

GaijinPunch
Oct 7, 2005, 12:40
There is such a thing as a common Japanese "world view". It is instilled to children since their tenderest age, and include all the misconceptions listed here.
My aim is to dispel the myths, for everybody's good, and help improving relations between Japan and "the outside

In my experience, which is longer than yours, but shorter than others, one tends to enjoy Japan alot more after realization that he is not going to change it.

Maciamo
Oct 7, 2005, 12:46
In my experience, which is longer than yours, but shorter than others, one tends to enjoy Japan alot more after realization that he is not going to change it.

Not if your blood boils when you hear one misconception after the other on a daily basis. It would be easier if I could keep a circle of workmates that didn't change all the time. I enjoy more talking to people which I have known for 2 or 3 years, as I don't have to re-explain the same things again. I had a student who after 2 years still asked me things like "how do you do this in America" when she knew very well as was not American, and I had told her many times that I didn't like being taken for an American. So, it's true, some people won't change. but others will. It's worth "educating" people from the start as you don't know how long/often you are going to meet. With people I know I wll only meet once, I just don't bother.

Elizabeth
Oct 7, 2005, 14:00
Not really. When someone say "nice weather today", they just want to share their present feelings, or ask for a confirmation from the other party. Note that weather is independent from any party involved. It is different from complimenting somebody on things that do not need compliment, and thus making them feel awkard.

What I hated particularily in my first few months in Japan was when someone would say "oh, nihongo jouzu desu ne" while I was struggling to make a sentence. This time it's not about complimenting something that should be natural, but the opposite "complimenting someone who is not good at something". I sometimes wonder if their aim was to make fun of me, as they didn't have to make a remark stressing my poor skills. Interestingly, I haven't hear that "oh, nihongo jouzu desu ne" since I became reasonably fluent, which somehow proves that it was not a real compliment. Now, they just say "oh, you can speak Japanese" or "oh, you can read kanji". But it's still out of place when they say that after I have just said one sentence or read some very easy kanji (you know, those that we all know after a month in Japan).

The other way round is better, IMO. They could have shown their surprised at my reading a few simple kanji after I just arrived in Japan, while now that my Japanese is decent, they could say "oh, nihongo jouzu desu ne" (but only after a real conversation, and given I didn't mistake too much - NOT after a "konnichiwa" !). The opposite, knowing about my background, is trying to make fun of me or underestimate me (almost the same thing).

It's interesting to have this discussion with you, because if you too cannot understand the difference between saying "nice weather today" and doing so false compliment, it means that there are more people than I thought who can't distinguish between clearly different feelings.

The discussion about misconceptions is yet a different thing, although related. It is not about sharing a feeling ("nice weather today"), and not about complimenting ("oh, you can use chopsticks/read kanji, sugoooii !"). It is about a person's knowledge or conception of the world. In that case, I do not feel insulted or take it personally, I just can't believe what I hear. I feel sorry for them, and wonder how on earth an education system could deprive people of their critical sense to this extend. I said it was related to the "false complimenting" because it only happens because of such miscnceptions (here, "foreigners cannot speak Japanese, even after living several years in Japan, because Japanese is so unique and Japanese brains so different, because Japanese society was agricultural well before agriculture was invented, and Westerners were just axe-wielding barbarian hunters !" :okashii: ).

It's important to try to understand what a person's conception of the world is to understand why they say things they say. I have been digging on this for at least 2 years now. There is such a thing as a common Japanese "world view". It is instilled to children since their tenderest age, and include all the misconceptions listed here (http://www.wa-pedia.com/culture/misconceptions_prejudices.shtml).
My aim is to dispel the myths, for everybody's good, and help improving relations between Japan and "the outside".
Although isn't "false complementing" or flattery a very well ingrained social tactic in Japan, at least something I've heard other Japanese sometimes complain about as well, even if I haven't been there enough to witness it personally. Clearly anyone who takes "Your Japanese is so good" seriously with "Mada mada" for instance will be looked at as a fool. A very offhand "thank you" is the most appropriate response. The stragegic reasoning behind using it is unclear, but has very little to do, in my mind, with expectations of Westerners or lacking critical thinking skills.

The other series of 'misconceptions' are more difficult to handle, they may find the particlar reaction or message they get unique and interesting if nothing else. :relief: I've never as much spent time with narrow-minded or unenlightened, or even non-university educated friends. When I tell them that Americans behave certain ways, that there is recycling here (from someone just back from a week-long vacation in California and moderately good English) was the latest, it is taken as a bit surprising but at least not doubted or forgotten. It must not have been an iconic myth inculcated by the school system. :blush:

studyonline
Oct 7, 2005, 17:35
Japan is an island country. People are living in a small world. I could easily understand that "common" way of their perspectives on things.

Even like about 10 years ago, people in the main land Japan used to think all Okinawans do Karate. In a worse case, they even thought all Okinawans could speak English.

We may be so educated and score high in Math, but our ignorance toward people and other cultures are serious problem. Really, if you got blond hair, many Japanese will asuume you can speak English and are from the U.S.

You may be treated like a star by the people once you let them know that you can actually speak Japanese! I tell you, it's insane.

Mike Cash
Oct 7, 2005, 18:48
Do you see anything odd or inconsistent about the fact that one the one hand you base your economic livelihood in Japan on your gaijinity and on the other hand ***** and moan like hell that your gaijinity is a central theme in the way many Japanese relate to you?

Maciamo
Oct 7, 2005, 19:14
Do you see anything odd or inconsistent about the fact that one the one hand you base your economic livelihood in Japan on your gaijinity and on the other hand ***** and moan like hell that your gaijinity is a central theme in the way many Japanese relate to you?

Not really. I don't see what my job has to do with chopsticks, seasons or blood groups. These were already in their mind well before they met me. My appearance, behaviour, or way of relating with them has nothing to do with it.

Mike Cash
Oct 7, 2005, 19:36
That sort of thing plays no small part in the gaijin fascination factor which provides at least some portion of many Japanese people's motivation to avail themselves of your professional services.

Kinsao
Oct 7, 2005, 20:10
OMG this thread got so long - I have trouble catching up now! :mad:

I知 not trying to disagree with you, Maciamo. Of course, I can understand that it is irritating to have this happen to you. People constantly commenting on these things such as using chopsticks and speaking Japanese, yes, I can imagine it is distinctly wearing when you have gone through it many times. I can also understand that you wonder why people ask these question and why even well-educated and otherwise intelligent people often make strange assumptions based on stereotypes. I am sure I would wonder the same thing, if I was in your place. It is a fair question and it is also a good thing that you and people like you try to challenge such stereotypes and change people's views!

But every country does have its own stereotypes about foreigners, admittedly some less than others. For example, in my experience in the UK I have met quite a lot of 'normal'-seeming and nice people who hold the strangest ideas! I used to go out with a Japanese guy and one of my greatest friends would constantly make what I would think of as 'racist' jokes. It didn't bother me personally, because I knew he was not trying to be offensive; such remarks were based quite simply on ignorance, even though he is quite an intelligent man in many other respects. (Actually I mean ignorance about acceptable behaviour, not necessarily ignorance about the Japanese culture!) So, you get these stupid things in all countries and cultures. And, of course, what Kara Nari said.

From your experiences, though, it would seem that it is more widespread in Japan because of the education system teaching such untruths to children.


In fact, I was quite bad at learning languages at school, and I have only really started to like foreign languages and started learning by myself from about 17 years old. This contradicts the theory that young children learn more easily languages, as for in my case I found it easier after puberty.

That is very interesting. There is hope for me yet!

Strangely enough, I am also used to people not 'understanding' me. Funny, that... :clueless: :D


And is it better to tolerate everything in life, even the clearly negative aspects ? I think modern Western societies are putting too much importance on tolerance. Should we, for instance, tolerate religious or political extremism ?

That is an extremely good point and I agree with you! :p I am not a very tolerant person, in fact. :bluush:


I also thought that the kanji would be the hardest part at first, but it ended up being one of the easiest, as I really liked (and still like) learning them. In fact, without the kanji, it would have taken me longer to acquire my current (passive) vocabulary in Japanese, as kanji compounds help guessing the meaning of unknown words, and even creating new ones quite easily.

Yaay! I am looking forward to learning the kanji. I intend to leave it for a little while longer, otherwise I run the risk of overloading my brain with info (I am already losing my memory because of stress :kanashii: ) but in the near future I am certainly going to learn, and this is very encouraging. I'm lucky too in that I assimilate vocab very quickly. :relief:

Hey, if I was to go to Japan, I am totally sure there would be times when I would end up asking a really dumb question by mistake. :sorry:


As far as the "routine of conventions" being susceptible to change is concerned, I agree with you in essence, but I don't think we should hope to see it in our lifetimes. Also, I feel that although we can and do influence this change ever so slightly in our daily interactions, I think that it is wrong for any of us to try to impose our own personal beliefs on another culture as a whole.

Yeah! :cool:

Actually - I stray a bit! - there are lots of English people who also share the misconception that Japanese is an incredibly difficult language to learn. If I mention at all that I am learning Japanese, the reaction is usually like 'Wow! So difficult!' OK admittedly I have only a really low level, but so far it's not so difficult. Well, any language becomes more difficult the higher level you go, of course.


Japanese people in general make much less chit chat and unnecessary filler conversation than Americans

I noticed that my ex was one of the very few people I knew who enjoyed to talk around a topic. Of course, English people do, but it is more unusual to find someone who just dives straight into a 'subject' with little or no small talk (in my - admittedly limited - experience they are usually mad types in the pub!). I have no idea whether that is anything to do with being Japanese or whether it is just a personality thing.


the heart is the symbol of goodness, and at the same time that god decided that those on his rights were the good/chosen ones, so why if god made us, did he choose to place our heart to the left

That doesn't sound like religious education instruction to me - that sounds more like ridiculous pseudo-religious superstition!


How many times haven't I heared people saying "Nihon ni umarete yokatta" or "I was so lucky to be born in Japan". When I ask why, they typically reply "We have cherry blossoms in Japan" or "We are lucky to be born in a rich and safe country with a good education system". to which I can only scoff.

Maybe it is a little bit of the 'ignorance is bliss', which of course I don't approve of. But on the other hand, rich and safe country, well, I can think of many, many, countries in the world, very poor and highly dangerous countries, where I am extremely glad I do not live. Actually, yes, they ARE lucky to live in Japan - comparatively speaking with the rest of the world.

But that bit about the education system... ewww... the rose coloured glasses... :buuh:

Although I could say the same thing about England, even though I don't think the education system is good in fact, not compared with an ideal education system that I would like, but when I consider and compare with other countries throughout the world, I think we have enough that I could consider myself lucky.


I am trying to make other people understand what I want them to understand. I told you, I believe in education.

I can understand your frustration. But people will only learn, if their mind is open to learn. For someone whose mind is open, everything is an 'education'! But if their mind is closed, it is like a limpet on a rock in many cases, the more you try to prise it open, the harder it will stick. (I don't know in that case what is the best tactic like the limpet, a sudden sharp kick maybe? :D )


Not if your blood boils when you hear one misconception after the other on a daily basis.

I've got some nice little pills you might be interested in :-)

Silverpoint
Oct 7, 2005, 20:56
Not if your blood boils when you hear one misconception after the other on a daily basis.

I'm somewhat consfused as to why you seem to continually encounter these problems and yet none of the rest of us who live here seem to have anything like the life you describe.

Actually, I'm a little at a loss here, because having read back through this thread, I genuinely find some of the things you have started to espouse quite disturbing (particulary your comments about your IQ, and your relationship to 'less intelligent' people). While it might sound a cheap shot, these types of comments are only one-step removed from the some of the less savory doctrines of nazism.

Maciamo
Oct 7, 2005, 21:21
I'm somewhat consfused as to why you seem to continually encounter these problems and yet none of the rest of us who live here seem to have anything like the life you describe.

Because I analyse more what people say and try to understand their deep way of thinking, maybe ? Because I am more (intellectually) sensitive to these kind of things ?


While it might sound a cheap shot, these types of comments are only one-step removed from the some of the less savory doctrines of nazism.

That's right ! The Japanese government is inculcating 'nihonjinron' ideas through the education system, and that is damn close to what the Nazi would do to brainwash their citizens about the superiority of their race and culture (e.g. the "hunter vs farmer theory" is clearly racistic, as it is based on the difference between the Japanese and Westerners, and although it is a lie, it is skewed in favour of the Japanese). So I guess my task is to rectify this educational misguidance.

NB : No need to reply that it wasn't what you meant, I understood very well, but you visibly do not understand my intentions. So I have turned your argument back to show you what my point is.

Elizabeth
Oct 7, 2005, 21:29
Actually, I'm a little at a loss here, because having read back through this thread, I genuinely find some of the things you have started to espouse quite disturbing (particulary your comments about your IQ, and your relationship to 'less intelligent' people). While it might sound a cheap shot, these types of comments are only one-step removed from the some of the less savory doctrines of nazism.
And this is actually a highly moderated expression of it compared with a select few of the back threads. :okashii: I'll keep it in mind never to permanently settle in a place so aversive and at odds with my personality that I need the pretext of doing so to "educate" the people and "improve" the culture.

Kinsao
Oct 7, 2005, 21:30
the "hunter vs farmer theory" is clearly racistic, as it is based on the difference between the Japanese and Westerners, and although it is a lie, it is skewed in favour of the Japanese

Uhhh... I don't mean to split hairs, but why is it skewed in favour of the Japanese? I mean, I don't understand why "farmers" would necessarily be considered superior to "hunters"? :?

Myself, I'd take a hunter over a farmer any day! :blush:

Mikawa Ossan
Oct 7, 2005, 23:29
Wow, this thread got a lot of posts today! I wanted to respond to Mad Pierrot's earlier post here, but I'm too tired right now (Long day at the office).

Instead, as I was trying to catch up on the events of this thread, the thought ocurred to me that Maciamo might have a better time at it if he changed professions. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it sounds to me like you work at Eikaiwa (English Conversation). You might enjoy doing something else much better. I will further assume that your current visa is pretty flexible in terms of the work you can do, so if your Japanese is up to it, you should be able to find a job at another company without too much problem.

Hopefully your new co-workers won't change too much, so you can live in peace after a while.

Incidentally, I'm completely serious about this. I hope I made sense...

Maciamo
Oct 7, 2005, 23:32
Uhhh... I don't mean to split hairs, but why is it skewed in favour of the Japanese? I mean, I don't understand why "farmers" would necessarily be considered superior to "hunters"? :?

Myself, I'd take a hunter over a farmer any day! :blush:

Well, it seems very clear to the Japanese that the farmers is the symbol of civilisation (as it is its main prerequisite), while the hunter represents the primitive caveman.

Maciamo
Oct 7, 2005, 23:37
And this is actually a highly moderated expression of it compared with a select few of the back threads. :okashii: I'll keep it in mind never to permanently settle in a place so aversive and at odds with my personality that I need the pretext of doing so to "educate" the people and "improve" the culture.

So you believe that all cultures on earth (including your own) are perfect or cannot be improved (for some reasons I cannot understand). Cultures evolve with time, and one of the causes that make them evolve is the contact with other cultures.

Anyway, it is off the mark, as I was not talking of improving Japanese culture (they know well enough how to copy the West, or China in the past). I believe that I am repeated enough times that this was all a matter of education that needed to be changed. Is it changing the culture of a country that to tell the people about other countries so that they understand them better and do not cause offense when meeting foreigners because of misplaced or prejudiced comments ? I just want to open their (and maybe your) eyes.

And I believe I also have work to do in my own country (for example, about Leopold II (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L%C3%A9opold_II_of_Belgium)'s atrocities in Congo, which many Belgians have hardly heard about, if at all). I am also a strong opponent of the monarchy in my country, and want to reform many things (including the education system, as explained here (http://www.wa-pedia.com/forum/showthread.php?t=19362)). My role is Japan is much more modest - just improve relations between Japanese and Westerners, as it directly concerns me.

Maciamo
Oct 7, 2005, 23:45
Instead, as I was trying to catch up on the events of this thread, the thought ocurred to me that Maciamo might have a better time at it if he changed professions. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it sounds to me like you work at Eikaiwa (English Conversation). You might enjoy doing something else much better. I will further assume that your current visa is pretty flexible in terms of the work you can do, so if your Japanese is up to it, you should be able to find a job at another company without too much problem.

Thanks for the advice. :p I am well aware of this, and I already looking for something else.

Silverpoint
Oct 8, 2005, 00:37
Because I analyse more what people say and try to understand their deep way of thinking, maybe ? Because I am more (intellectually) sensitive to these kind of things ?


Which means what exactly? You're intellectually superior to the rest of us?


NB : No need to reply that it wasn't what you meant, I understood very well, but you visibly do not understand my intentions.

Which is exactly what I hoped you'd say and really just reinforces my previous point.

Elizabeth
Oct 8, 2005, 02:02
Anyway, it is off the mark, as I was not talking of improving Japanese culture (they know well enough how to copy the West, or China in the past). I believe that I am repeated enough times that this was all a matter of education that needed to be changed. Is it changing the culture of a country that to tell the people about other countries so that they understand them better and do not cause offense when meeting foreigners because of misplaced or prejudiced comments ? I just want to open their (and maybe your) eyes.
Aside from serious issues of education reform, I've yet to come across another foreigner as easily, or at all actually, offended by these so-called myths that are driving Japanese perceptions of Westerners. On the contrary, the most offensive and disrespecful comments have consistently been in the other direction.

Improved relationships on a personal level naturally involve compromises and change from both parties. The issues have been laid out ad nauseum over several months and years here -- let us know next time when you begin to see some real progress. :-)

Bucko
Oct 8, 2005, 02:19
I'm finding more and more Japanese people here in Osaka who don't give a second thought as to whether or not I speak Japanese. People will just waltz up to me and blurt something out expecting me to understand, and I wish I did (btw I'm a 6 foot, brown hair, green eyed white guy).

The other day I was waiting for the tram when a man pulled up next to me on his bike and asked for directions to somewhere, in Japanese. I didn't really know what he said so I just replied, "sumimasen, wakaranai". Then he skipped to the next person who gave him the directions he needed.

I reckon the people who are most surprised that you speak Japanese and that you can use chopsticks are the ones who have had previous (although not a lot of) exposure to Westerners and English. I.e. Japanese who have gone on a holiday to Hawaii, can speak a few English phrases, maybe know someone from OS.

Kara_Nari
Oct 8, 2005, 02:37
Oh dear, im waaaaaaayyyyy behind here! A lot of chatter has been going on since I last visited this thread.

All I wanted to say was: If you are bothered about people asking about the weather, when it is evidently clear to you how the weather actually is...
Think about things that people in other countries might say instead.

On a daily basis I am asked 'Bap mogosso?' (Have you eaten?)

Maciamo I really enjoy reading your comments, and arguments, but as soon as I read the weather comment I was wondering how you would cope with this sort of comment on a daily (not even just once a day, numerous times) basis?

It's the general opening sentence when seeing someone for the first time of the day, usually among friends and colleagues. Dont get me wrong, not everyone does it, but it is common, and many peope do it. Likewise I guess with the weather questions.

When working in a japanese company, if we saw people for the first time of the day we would always say 'Ohayou gozaimasu' even if it was pitch black outside. Yet, we expected it, and all were guilty of saying it.

Sorry that this is the only thing right at this moment that is interesting me, perhaps I will be more full of wisdom and wonder tomorrow.

Ma Cherie
Oct 8, 2005, 05:27
This is an interesting thread and I've keeping up with the comments made. I still can't get over that weather thing :mad: :clueless: Anyways, I was wondering, Maciamo has there ever, ever been a moment in which you've encountered a japanese person who has made the attempt to differentiate you from other Westners? Or better yet, how would you react? Would you be happy? Shocked beyond belief? Or possibly relieved? :relief: I wonder if you've gotten to the point where you feel like pulling your hair out. (kidding of course) :blush:

Gaijinian
Oct 8, 2005, 06:23
Maciamo, first page:It's more than many look genuinely surprised that after 2, 3 or 4 years in Japan I can speak Japanese at a reasonable level,
The most PRICELESS look is the look of the Japanese tourists faces when I talk to them. My Japanese is pretty good, and it shocks them to see some white kid, only 15, speaking the "バーリ ディフィコルト" Japanese language.

It kills me that the are surprised that "out-side people" can speak Japanese after being there for several years. 日本で日本語が使われる家に生まれ育っていても、なぜ か日本語が喋れると、日本人がビックリさせるヨ! :okashii:

EDIT: I just hosted a kid for a week, and we had talked is straight Japanese for several days. He saw Star Bucks and told me っ、日本にも るよ。Then as if asking a question, he said, コービショップ? To which I said, "Yes, Coffee Shop は喫茶店。”

I don't know why, but me knowing "kissaten" was a shock ( :-) ), and he replied, 日本語うまいよ... By the WAY, no Japanese person has EVER told me that...
Why after all are converastion "kissaten" triggered that reaction, I'm not quite sure...
___
I think I may know why Japanese think so lowly of "gaijin."
We have already established that in Japan, gaijin=amerikajin, for the most part; in general, let's face it, the "American Attitude" is 'Every one speaks English, why learn another language?' (Americans annoy me... :blush: ... says the American)

Maybe that is why they are THAT shocked that we 鬼畜米兵 can speak the language of the kamikaze (plus, Japanese is after all, the most difficult language of them all {sarcasm...}) :? !!!

studyonline
Oct 8, 2005, 07:34
I have this funny story. There were two Japanese students walking down on a street. They saw a gaijin coming toward them. One guy said to the other, "Hey, say something to him in English". The other guy determined for the action and waited for the moment. As the gaijin came close to them, he tried to greet and say hi. He was nervous but finally opened his mouth saying, "I..I...I..am.....PEN!"

日本人がシャイなのは、皆さんがご存知の事実です。  特に、外人との接触する機会が る時など彼らにとって は、何らかの心の準備が必要なほどです。 恐らく沖縄 、大阪、東京以外の県では、外人を見かけるチャンスは 余り りません。 沖縄だと外人住宅が近接していて殆ど どの大通りでも、外人を見かけることができます。 基 地に住んでいるアメリカ兵などは、よく付近の町に遊び に出かけます。 ハンビータウンと呼ばれる所では、その30%の人々が外人だと 、私は思います。 

そんなインターナショナル的環境に る今日の日本ですが、日本人が、 外人に対してどのようにして応じたら良いかといった、 身近で大きな壁が るという現実は、見逃せません。   そもそも私達日本人は、「外人」という言葉にだまさ れて、自分たちも外人の内で るというのに気付いてい ません。  彼らの日本国の位置は、世界の中心に り ます。 だから、全て他の国からの外人たちは、彼らに とって「外の人」なのです。 
Gaijin as you know means "out-siders." Many of them do not think out-siders can do what Japanese can. That's why they will look at you like a rare item when you use chopsticks and eat rice. They may die of a heart-attack if you do 落語 in front of them. The problem is really the lack of knowledge on other cultures and people in the world as well as the lack of 身近な経験 with the foreigners.

Gaijinian
Oct 8, 2005, 07:46
日本人がシャイなのは、皆さんがご存知の事実です。
Not after a bit of sake...


外人を見かけるチャンスは 余り りません。
True... to some extent. Even in remote places you'll see a few of "us."


そもそも私達日本人は、「外人」という言葉にだまさ れて、自分たちも外人の内で るというのに気付いてい ません。  彼らの日本国の位置は、世界の中心に り ます。 だから、全て他の国からの外人たちは、彼らに とって「外の人」なのです。
True. In Japan or not, anyone not Japanese is a "gaijin." It is strange to think so, but I have been called, and call other Americans gaijin even when in the US! (ex: my teacher is a gaijin=(not Japanese).

DoctorP
Oct 8, 2005, 08:12
Maybe all people who are easily agitated by Japanese people coming up to them and asking mundane questions should start wearing signs around their neck stating something to that effect? You know: "Don't talk to me unless you are of above average intelligence, as I get easily offended and do not want to come across as a jerk to you when you make small talk!"

Who knows? It may just work and stop all this nonsense? Then again, maybe we should just continue educating the poor people who have been misinformed!

:relief:

Just a thought!

Mikawa Ossan
Oct 8, 2005, 08:32
Good morning!

I know Maciamo can fend for himself, but I feel that he's getting a lot of undue bad feelings for something that I started. Of course, I'm referring to "the Weather Incident". So I've decided to gather all of the pertinent posts up to the point the misunderstanding got out of hand.


Somewhere down the line, I came to the realization that many times the people saying these things are just trying to make conversation. They're not REALLY surprised at the fact that you can use chopsticks, but they think it's a safe topic to start conversation. It's like talking about the weather, in that sense.

Sometimes such remarks come after I have known the person for a while and we have already discussed about many things. I know this is not about the weather incident, but it was part of a reply to my post that everyone seemed to miss.

I could apply your argument to absolutely anything. If someone said to me "nice weather today", should I in the same way feel upset and insulted because I've been living on this earth for 32 years, and I'm intelligent enough to know for myself if the weather is good or not. And they should be well aware of that.This is where the trouble starts.

Not really. When someone say "nice weather today", they just want to share their present feelings, or ask for a confirmation from the other party. Note that weather is independent from any party involved. It is different from complimenting somebody on things that do not need compliment, and thus making them feel awkard.Maciamo is making a distinction here between the weather and "conversational" compliments. I got the impression that by making this distinction Maciamo was intending to express that he would NOT get offended by talk of the weather. This point seemed to have been missed, and after this point, things seemed to have gone bad.

I hope this straightens out the "Weather Incident". Please understand that Maciamo is NOT saying that he would get insulted by talk of the weather. The point was originally brought up as a rhetorical device by Silverpoint, and Maciamo responded by (indirectly) saying that it was an invalid point.

Mikawa Ossan
Oct 8, 2005, 09:16
Not after a bit of sake...I don't mean to sound like a parent, but you're too young to drink. If your friends are underage and drinking, that, too, is bad. If they are "of age" and letting you drink, that is irresponsible. They should not be drinking with you (in front of you) in any case. (I understand you were joking, but underage drinking is a serious topic.)


True. In Japan or not, anyone not Japanese is a "gaijin." It is strange to think so, but I have been called, and call other Americans gaijin even when in the US! (ex: my teacher is a gaijin=(not Japanese).
Since you can read Japanese, let me quote the definition of "gaijin" as defined by 広辞苑, a well respected Japanese dictionary.
がいじん【外人】
@仲間以外の人。疎遠な人。
A敵視すべき人
B外国人。異人。 <=>邦人
Note that 邦人 and 日本人 are not necessarily the same thing. When you call your American Japanese teacher, "外人" in America, I assume you're doing it in the 3rd sense above. Technically that's wrong, because using Japanese from the perspective of America renders Japanese citizens as 外国人. By definition, one can not be a foreigner in their native country; therefore, your teacher is not a "gaijin" so long as he/she remains in America (assuming that America is his/her native country).

This is a good point when talking to Japanese people about what it means to be a foreigner in the first place.

A Japanese calling an American citizen "gaijin" in America is making the mistake of failing to understand that gaijin is a relative term. If it's said as a joke, it's only a joke because it's a play on the relativity of the meaning of the word. In other words, it's using the term "gaijin" in terms that are inappropriate for the situation, thereby making it strange and funny.

Of course, if you mean 外人 in the first sense above, that's different. But that brings up the subject of what 仲間 you're talking about. Personally, I've never heard 外人 clearly being used in this context.

Elizabeth
Oct 8, 2005, 09:42
The most PRICELESS look is the look of the Japanese tourists faces when I talk to them. My Japanese is pretty good, and it shocks them to see some white kid, only 15, speaking the "バーリ ディフィコルト" Japanese language.

It kills me that the are surprised that "out-side people" can speak Japanese after being there for several years. 日本で日本語が使われる家に生まれ育っていても、なぜ か日本語が喋れると、日本人がビックリさせるヨ! :okashii:
西洋的な顔をしている日本語のネーティブスピーカを見ると、英語語脳と日本語脳に切り替える努力をしていますが、ちょっと難しいです よ。

そう見える場合には、本当の日本人がどうかわからない と考えているので混乱するためです。 :bluush: でも、もし私が突然日本語を話し始めれば、ショックを 受けた顔のか。。。
ということに気づかないです。 :relief:  

Maciamo
Oct 8, 2005, 11:16
All I wanted to say was: If you are bothered about people asking about the weather, when it is evidently clear to you how the weather actually is...
Think about things that people in other countries might say instead.
...
Maciamo I really enjoy reading your comments, and arguments, but as soon as I read the weather comment I was wondering how you would cope with this sort of comment on a daily (not even just once a day, numerous times) basis?



I still can't get over that weather thing

Did I ever complained about the weather ? I very often talk about the weather to start a conversation. It is Silverpoint who mentioned the weather, not me. Frankly, did anybody else understand that I disliked talking about the weather ? I thought I was clear in explaiing that it was ok because it was just sharing a feeling, and it was not complimenting/flattery or misconceptions. Or maybe are your referring to the '4 seasons' question (this is completely a different issue, btw. It's about the Japanese firmly believing that very few countries except Japan have four seasons, while all 35 European countries and many more do, and they should know it if tey have been there as is often the case).

It is not surprising that Elizabeth, Silvepoint or others misunderstand what I say if you can't even understand something explained so clearly. Then you miss probably a lot of more delicate issues and things that are not written because I assume you have read the threads in link (like this one (http://www.wa-pedia.com/culture/misconceptions_prejudices.shtml) and this one (http://www.wa-pedia.com/culture/misconceptions_prejudices.shtml) and read everything properly, and kept everything in mind while reading other posts). If you don't you wont' be able to understand me. Maybe that is what Silverpoint was insinuating just above.


When working in a japanese company, if we saw people for the first time of the day we would always say 'Ohayou gozaimasu' even if it was pitch black outside. Yet, we expected it, and all were guilty of saying it.

So what ? I never said otherwise. I also use fixed expressions like that all the time. What I was explaining is that complimenting foreigners about chopsticks or their Japanese or asking them if they can eat sushi or natto have become like those fixed expressions for the Japanese (but ONLY in Japan; where else are you constantly asked whether you can do this or that because you are a foreigner ?). Greetings are universal, but asking whether you can eat sushi and be surprised because you say 'yes' is peculiar to Japan.

I hope that was clear enough this time.


EDIT :
Maciamo is making a distinction here between the weather and "conversational" compliments. I got the impression that by making this distinction Maciamo was intending to express that he would NOT get offended by talk of the weather. This point seemed to have been missed, and after this point, things seemed to have gone bad.

I hope this straightens out the "Weather Incident". Please understand that Maciamo is NOT saying that he would get insulted by talk of the weather. The point was originally brought up as a rhetorical device by Silverpoint, and Maciamo responded by (indirectly) saying that it was an invalid point.

Thank you Mikawa Ossan. :-) I see that at least you read my posts properly. :-) It's incredible how much misunderstanding can be created by people who can't read, then call me Nazi because the understand the exact opposite of what I mean at almost every post (=> Silverpoint).

Ma Cherie
Oct 8, 2005, 11:37
I understand what you're saying Maciamo. I've read the threads you've posted, when I pointed out that I couldn't get over the weather thing, I meant that I don't understand how most japanese people seem to believe that their country is the only one (or one of the few) that believe they have four seasons. That's just........well nevermind that. :blush:

Maciamo
Oct 8, 2005, 11:48
The most PRICELESS look is the look of the Japanese tourists faces when I talk to them. My Japanese is pretty good, and it shocks them to see some white kid, only 15, speaking the "バーリ ディフィコルト" Japanese language.

It kills me that the are surprised that "out-side people" can speak Japanese after being there for several years. 日本で日本語が使われる家に生まれ育っていても、なぜ か日本語が喋れると、日本人がビックリさせるヨ! :okashii:

EDIT: I just hosted a kid for a week, and we had talked is straight Japanese for several days. He saw Star Bucks and told me っ、日本にも るよ。Then as if asking a question, he said, コービショップ? To which I said, "Yes, Coffee Shop は喫茶店。”

I don't know why, but me knowing "kissaten" was a shock ( :-) ), and he replied, 日本語うまいよ... By the WAY, no Japanese person has EVER told me that...
Why after all are converastion "kissaten" triggered that reaction, I'm not quite sure...
___
I think I may know why Japanese think so lowly of "gaijin."
We have already established that in Japan, gaijin=amerikajin, for the most part; in general, let's face it, the "American Attitude" is 'Every one speaks English, why learn another language?' (Americans annoy me... :blush: ... says the American)

Maybe that is why they are THAT shocked that we 鬼畜米兵 can speak the language of the kamikaze (plus, Japanese is after all, the most difficult language of them all {sarcasm...}) :? !!!

Thank you, thank you ! :cool: At last somebody that understand my plight ! I agree on everything you said. As for the "kissaten" vs "ko-hi-shoppu", that is exactly what I wanted to explain when I said that the Japanese look surprised that I can speak Japanese just after saying a few words or reading some basic kanji. For those who didn't understand (e.g. Silverpoint), the kind of situation that bother me is just like the "kissaten" example of Gaijinian. Many times, when I am in a situation like Gaijinian described talking to a Japanese in Japanese, never mind how fluently I talk to them, they will try to use katakana words like コービショップ because they think it's easier for the stupid foreigner to understand. These are always, very basic, daily words, (e.g. subway instead of chikatetsu, bookshop instead of honya, tea instead of ocha, home instead of uchi, car instead of kuruma, etc.). How could someone not know a word like "kuruma" (one of the first words learned) and yet speak quite fluently ? Why should the Japanese so constantly try to use English words in their Japanese with foreigners (words that they would not normally use with other Japanese) and be surprised (not just the look, but as Gaijinian said, with the "sugoooii ! nihongo jouzu desu ne") because a fluent foreigners knows the word "kuruma" instead of car. :mad:

When I speak English with a Japanese who does not yet know that I speak Japanese, but knows I have been in Japan for several years and am married to a Japanse (e.g. most of my students, as I teach one-to-one lessons, and I explain my background during the trial lesson) and that person cannot find his/her words and think aloud in Japanese, I usually just tell them the word that they were looking for. Even when it is a very simple Japanese word that I translated for them (e.g. 部長 "buchou", department manager), their reaction is often close to disbelief. "Oooh, what, sugoooi ! You can understand Japanese. Wow ! How comes ? Are you Japanese ?". Give me a break. Who doesn't know a word like "buchou" after 4 years of working in Japan ? Then, even if they were surprised, no need to make such a scene about it. Just shut up and keep your astonishment for you.

DoctorP
Oct 8, 2005, 11:55
Give me a break. Who doesn't know a word like "buchou" after 4 years of working in Japan ? Then, even if they were surprised, no need to make such a scene about it. Just shut up and keep your astonishment for you.


I must say that I am surprised. This is the very first sign of emotion (to my knowledge) that you have ever shown! You are human afterall! :wave:

While I agree with most of what you say, I just think that you let it get to you too much. Meaning that you take it too personal...as an attack on you or something to that effect. I quite often battle with my friends and employees. They quite often want to speak to me in broken English, and as you mentioned before I will finish their sentences for them. (usually because I get frustrated waiting for them to think of the correct word) Only about 3 of my 50 employees have figured out that it is easier to speak Japanese to me, than it is to try to use English.

Maciamo
Oct 8, 2005, 12:20
He was nervous but finally opened his mouth saying, "I..I...I..am.....PEN!"

Do you mean the 'gaijin' said that ? If that is the case, it was probably a joke, as I have heard countless times Japanese who couldn't speak English shout to me in the street "This is a pen !" because that's all they could remember from their English class (and by the way, we don't start English classes with "this is a pen" or such nonsense in Europe).


日本人がシャイなのは、皆さんがご存知の事実です。  特に、外人との接触する機会が る時など彼らにとって は、何らかの心の準備が必要なほどです。

I will reply in English so that everybody can understand. I am also a rather shy person. Probably shier than most Japanese, which I found to be as expressive and open as the Italians- at least between themselves. Whta I don't understand is why most (if not all) Japanese behave so much differently when meeting Westerners. Why does a normal person suddenly become shy when they have to deal with a foreigner ? When I go to the combini, sometimes the staff is so nervous when I ask them something in Japanese (e.g. コピー機を使っていいですか?=> May I use the photocopier ?) that I can see them trembling in fear, and some cannot find their words to reply and call for help (gaijin da ! gaijin da !). Fortunately, this happens only once out of 50 times, but it does happen. And that is in cental Tokyo (e.g. Nihombashi) where there are Westerners going to that combini maybe 10 times a day. We can't even say they are not used to dealing with foreigners ! The funny thing is that it's almost always young males (in their 20's) or older women (over 50 years old) that panick at the sight of a Westerner. I may understand the latter, but not the former. Where is the proud and strong samuari spirit of the young Japanese men ? :D

Where I come from (Belgian countryside), we almost never see foreigners (much less than in any Japanese city, even small country towns). It is close to 100% white. But nobody panicks, behaves differently, or say "help, that's a foreigner ! I can't speak English !". It makes absolutely no difference. I have travelled all around Europe with my (Japanese) wife, even in small country towns with no foreigners, and never have people behaved strangely like with 'gaijin' in Japan.



Gaijin as you know means "out-siders." Many of them do not think out-siders can do what Japanese can.

Thanks for confirming what I have been explaining.


They may die of a heart-attack if you do 落語 in front of them. The problem is really the lack of knowledge on other cultures and people in the world as well as the lack of 身近な経験 with the foreigners.

I doubt that the lack 身近な経験 (close-contact experience) be the real reason. As I said, where I come from, most people have probably never had close contact experience with a Japanese or a non white. But my wife can go in anywhere (shop, supermarket, train station...) and nobody even tries to speak something else but French, except when they see she doesn't understand, so they may try English if they can. Nobody assumes that because she is not white she can't do things as well as locals. This is called racism.

What's more, the area where I live in Tokyo is very central and I see many Westerners everyday. I see them at my local supermarket, in restaurants or bento-ya in my area, etc. and yet some locals (older men, especially during matsuri when they are a bit more uninhibited) will shout "hey America !" or "This is a pen" when seeing a Westerner. This would never happen in Belgium. There are many Morrocans in Brussels (the capital) but it would be considered very racist to shout Arabic-sounding things that do not mean anything or shout "Hey Morroco !" when seeing one. Nobody does it (afaik).

Maciamo
Oct 8, 2005, 12:25
True. In Japan or not, anyone not Japanese is a "gaijin." It is strange to think so, but I have been called, and call other Americans gaijin even when in the US! (ex: my teacher is a gaijin=(not Japanese).

When I went on a sightseeing tour in Shanghai with a Japanese group, I couldn't help noticing that eventhough they were in China, they called the Chinese gaijin. I have heard Japanese in Europe refer to locals as 'gaijin'. So the term does not change in function of the environment. Logically, the 'outsiders' or 'foreigners' are those who do not live in the country. But it is so deeply rooted in the Japanese mind, that where ever on earth, anyone that isn't or does not look Japanese is always a 'gaijin'. I asked my wife : "Aren't we the gaijin here in China ?", but she wasn't too sure. Although it sounded logical, she understood why other Japanese referered to locals as 'gaijin'. That is one of the thing that make me believe that the Japanese are not linguistically logical people.


Note that 邦人 and 日本人 are not necessarily the same thing. When you call your American Japanese teacher, "外人" in America, I assume you're doing it in the 3rd sense above. Technically that's wrong, because using Japanese from the perspective of America renders Japanese citizens as 外国人. By definition, one can not be a foreigner in their native country; therefore, your teacher is not a "gaijin" so long as he/she remains in America (assuming that America is his/her native country).

Technically it is wrong (because illogical), but the Japanese do use it that way. The Japanese are not people who usually care very much about definitions. The 'feeling' is more important. Hence, my impression that they often say very illogical things. I may be more sensitive to it because French speakers are taught very strictly about linguistic logic - much more than English speakers (esp. outide Britain => note that I said 'Britain' because I didn't want to include Ireland, famous for its weird "Irish logic").


A Japanese calling an American citizen "gaijin" in America is making the mistake of failing to understand that gaijin is a relative term.

In my experience, the Japanese have little notion of relativity. For example, if someone calls me, a Westerner would reply "I am coming" (coming toward you) in any of the European languages I know. But the Japanese never use this relative meaning of "come" and would say "go" (ikimasu !). There are many more examples if one analyse the language carefully. French language may be even more relative than English in this case, as we can also say 'J'arrive' ("I am arriving") in addition to 'Je viens' ("I am coming"). So, it's not only a relativity in space but also in time ('arrive' implies that the person will be arriving in front of the other person in a very short time).

Maciamo
Oct 8, 2005, 12:28
Maybe all people who are easily agitated by Japanese people coming up to them and asking mundane questions should start wearing signs around their neck stating something to that effect? You know: "Don't talk to me unless you are of above average intelligence, as I get easily offended and do not want to come across as a jerk to you when you make small talk!"

What about :

"Maybe all Japanese shop attendants who are easily agitated by gaijin coming up to them and asking questions should start wearing signs around their neck stating something to that effect?" :D

Maciamo
Oct 8, 2005, 13:00
While I agree with most of what you say, I just think that you let it get to you too much. Meaning that you take it too personal...as an attack on you or something to that effect.

I am someone who likes to analyse things, and reflect about what people say and how they behave. Not everyone is like me (few people are, I think), but one cannot change personality or sensitivity just like that because it would make life in Japan easier.


Only about 3 of my 50 employees have figured out that it is easier to speak Japanese to me, than it is to try to use English.

Don't you find this amazing ? It may be difficult for native English speakers to imagine what foreign language to speak to a foreigner. But I have grown up in several non-English speaking countries, and never did anyone try by default to speak English with someone, even if they knew for sure they were foreigners. It's something the Japanese do, and I cannot understand why in my or your case, it takes them so long to understand that just speaking normally in their mother tongue is the easiest way to communicate. It's usually fairly evident after a few seconds of conversation between 2 people which language works best. Maybe that's again the lack of critical sense. They can't judge things like that by themselves (well, some do, but as you said they are exceptions).

Glenn
Oct 8, 2005, 13:53
When I went on a sightseeing tour in Shanghai with a Japanese group, I couldn't help noticing that eventhough they were in China, they called the Chinese gaijin. I have heard Japanese in Europe refer to locals as 'gaijin'. So the term does not change in function of the environment. Logically, the 'outsiders' or 'foreigners' are those who do not live in the country. But it is so deeply rooted in the Japanese mind, that where ever on earth, anyone that isn't or does not look Japanese is always a 'gaijin'. I asked my wife : "Aren't we the gaijin here in China ?", but she wasn't too sure. Although it sounded logical, she understood why other Japanese referered to locals as 'gaijin'. That is one of the thing that make me believe that the Japanese are not linguistically logical people.

I disagree with you here. If we consider that one of the meanings for 国 is "our country," that is, "Japan," then everyone else is a 外国人 no matter where a Japanese person is. Another example of this is 国語. One of its meanings is "Japanese." If we consider just 外人, then it seems that they think of it as meaning "people outside of our circle," i.e. non-Japanese, i.e. the rest of the world. That doesn't seem to defy the meanings of the parts of the words to me.

There was an incident that seems to confirm this thought process to me. It occured about two weeks ago. A few people from one of my classes and I were talking to a Japanese girl, and when she found out that one of my classmates was half-Japanese (his mother is Japanese), she said to him お母さんによろしく伝えてください. Upon hearing this, I asked, "do you know his mom?" She said no, but Japanese people have a collective mentality about themselves where they see themselves as a unit, so this wasn't strange to her at all, as it probably wasn't to my classmate's mother, either. I found it very odd, though, and can't imagine someone coming up to me and saying that someone said "hi," just because we are both white or American. I relay this story to show why I believe there is a bit of logic involved in using 外人 for anyone not Japanese.



In my experience, the Japanese have little notion of relativity. For example, if someone calls me, a Westerner would reply "I am coming" (coming toward you) in any of the European languages I know. But the Japanese never use this relative meaning of "come" and would say "go" (ikimasu !). There are many more examples if one analyse the language carefully. French language may be even more relative than English in this case, as we can also say 'J'arrive' ("I am arriving") in addition to 'Je viens' ("I am coming"). So, it's not only a relativity in space but also in time ('arrive' implies that the person will be arriving in front of the other person in a very short time).

I disagree with this as well, because it's a matter of perspective. Japanese people talk about where they are at the time, not where the other person is. Really, it's more logical. I can't "come" somewhere that I'm not, anymore than I can "go" somewhere that I am.

Silverpoint
Oct 8, 2005, 14:37
I found it very odd, though, and can't imagine someone coming up to me and saying that someone said "hi," just because we are both white or American.

I like the reasoning in your post and agree with a number of points you make. My only real disagreement would be with the above quote.

I sometimes find when walking down the street that a fellow gaijin (by which in this example I mean white foreigner, who I don't know) coming the other way will give a little nod of recognition as they walk past, which is exactly the "we are both white [guys in Japan]" that you mentioned above. Interestingly there are also those that clearly don't want to associate with the other foreigner and will go out of their way to avoid eye-contact with you. Although you could argue that this in itself is another form of recognition that we are of the same group.

To extend this further (the one-step removed family member example you quoted) my wife actually came home a few weeks ago with a can of baked beans which was given to her in a bar by an English guy she met, who thought I might appreciate them simply because I'm a fellow Brit. He had recently been home and picked up some food. Why he happened to be carrying it at the time I don't know, but I do know that despite not knowing me, or ever having met me, he still felt able to make such a gesture.

However, I would accept that in my experience, this bond or identity as being part of a group is perhaps not as strong as between 2 Japanese.

Mikawa Ossan
Oct 8, 2005, 16:12
Thank you Mikawa Ossan. :-) I see that at least you read my posts properly. :-) It's incredible how much misunderstanding can be created by people who can't read, then call me Nazi because the understand the exact opposite of what I mean at almost every post (=> Silverpoint).
Please do not use my posts in a way that defames other forum members.

Glenn
Oct 8, 2005, 16:31
I like the reasoning in your post and agree with a number of points you make. My only real disagreement would be with the above quote.

I sometimes find when walking down the street that a fellow gaijin (by which in this example I mean white foreigner, who I don't know) coming the other way will give a little nod of recognition as they walk past, which is exactly the "we are both white [guys in Japan]" that you mentioned above. Interestingly there are also those that clearly don't want to associate with the other foreigner and will go out of their way to avoid eye-contact with you. Although you could argue that this in itself is another form of recognition that we are of the same group.

To extend this further (the one-step removed family member example you quoted) my wife actually came home a few weeks ago with a can of baked beans which was given to her in a bar by an English guy she met, who thought I might appreciate them simply because I'm a fellow Brit. He had recently been home and picked up some food. Why he happened to be carrying it at the time I don't know, but I do know that despite not knowing me, or ever having met me, he still felt able to make such a gesture.

Your second example is certainly closer to mine than your first one. I was talking about a third person involved in the process, not just between two people, as you pointed out. I can see it between two people when they directly have contact with each other, but it really struck me as odd to just say "give your mother my regards" without ever having met her. Even your example seems more acceptable to me, maybe because it's more of someone giving a sense of home to someone else than just giving a "what's up?" of sorts. Although, your example does strike me as a bit odd as well. Maybe it's just me and the type of persone I am. :?

Mikawa Ossan
Oct 8, 2005, 17:36
Technically it is wrong (because illogical), but the Japanese do use it that way. The Japanese are not people who usually care very much about definitions. The 'feeling' is more important.Well all I can say is, the (Japanese) people I've explained it to all got it the first time. They really started to think about it, too.


I disagree with you here. If we consider that one of the meanings for 国 is "our country," that is, "Japan," then everyone else is a 外国人 no matter where a Japanese person is. Another example of this is 国語. One of its meanings is "Japanese." If we consider just 外人, then it seems that they think of it as meaning "people outside of our circle," i.e. non-Japanese, i.e. the rest of the world. That doesn't seem to defy the meanings of the parts of the words to me.
Let me illustrate more specifically how I expain the concept of foreigness to Japanese, many of whom have never given the issue a single thought. I find that lack of thought to be a blessing in a way. But I digress.

Let's take the term 国語. Anyone worth his salt knows that 国語 and 日本語 are not the same thing. 国語, in its most basic meaning, is the native language of a given country. Or more accurately, [その国において公的なものとされている言語。 その国 の公用語。自国の言語。] (Quote from 広辞苑、5th ed.) When a Japanese says 国語, they are referring to 自国の言語, or the language of one's own country. Namely, Japanese. They would most likely not ever think of using it in terms of any other language. But we foreigners can do so quite easily, as long as you qualify it by stating something like, 「私の国の国語」, when referring to your own language in the same sense that Japanese generally do when they speak of Japanese 国語. To be more specific, the subject at school. (For my purposes here, before university, but I can make the case for University as well. It's just longer.)

Just as Japanese do not learn 日本語 , but rather 国語 at school, people where I grew up did not learn English (in the sense that English is taught in say Japan), but rather 国語. In this sense, it's American 国語 or American English. Since Japanese lump the Japanese grammar, vocabulary, kanji, and literature that they learned at school into the term 国語, I do the same for the English grammar, vocabulary, spelling, and literature that I learned at school.

I don't know whether I conveyed what I wanted to say clearly or not, but every single I put the concept of 国語 in these terms in Japanese, every single person understood what I meant the first time around.

So you see, Japanese people can understand the relativity of the term 国語; it's just a matter that they never have to in their daily lives. Still, it's one of those concepts that makes perfect sense once one has been told correctly.

The same holds true for 外人. I can go in more depth if anyone has a desire, but 国語 took more space than I thought it would. It's essentially the same concept, though.


I am someone who likes to analyse things, and reflect about what people say and how they behave. Not everyone is like me (few people are, I think), but one cannot change personality or sensitivity just like that because it would make life in Japan easier.
There is nothing wrong with that, but there IS such a thing as over-analyzing something. Even the master himself said, "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar." (I'm referring of course to Sigmund Freud.) I ask that you keep this in mind as you make your analysis.

It seems to me that sometimes you cause yourself problems by analyzing things that don't necessarily need to be. It's easy to become hyper-sensitive to foreigner issues when one lives in Japan as a foreigner.

studyonline
Oct 8, 2005, 18:22
Let's take the term 国語. Anyone worth his salt knows that 国語 and 日本語 are not the same thing. 国語, in its most basic meaning, is the native language of a given country. Or more accurately, [その国において公的なものとされている言語。 その国 の公用語。自国の言語。] (Quote from 広辞苑、5th ed.) When a Japanese says 国語, they are referring to 自国の言語, or the language of one's own country.

Hi there ya'll serious and smart people. Mikawa さん is right. We use 国語 for the academic subject in schools. When we say, "日本語", we refere to the language of Japan. Difference? While both are Japanese in English, there is a slight difference between them.

We usually acknowledge 日本語 for foreigners to learn the language. And we say 国語 for a purpose of education. It is true depending on the level of your study Japanese, your 日本語 can be as high level as 国語. But for Japanese, we don't say that we study 日本語 because we speak it and live with it.

While the elementary level of 国語 is very similar to 日本語 in terms of the difficulty as the kids in those ages just start to learn it, 国語 really starts to kick in with its real meaning at 5th-6th grade level.

自国の言語 is a good expression for 国語. I must say the depth of the language is pretty deep. Sometimes that depth can be so intimidating and make people confused. 曖昧な表現 is not just because of the nature of the language. Another reason for that is the depth of it.

Have you noticed that there are kinds of arts in Japan? Even for drinking tea.
Both Chinese and Japanese people like things to be arts. We like to appriciate what we do. And that spirit is actually seen in 国語. Once you learn 日本語 and very good at it, try 国語 or 国文学. I find Japanese is very good at expressing 微妙で繊細 things.

Maciamo
Oct 8, 2005, 18:53
Well all I can say is, the (Japanese) people I've explained it to all got it the first time. They really started to think about it, too.

In my experience, when I explained the logic of "gaikokujin" being relative to the country where one is, the Japanese understand what I mean, and even agree in principle. I am not saying that the Japanese cannot understand logic, I am saying that they prefer not to be logical by choice. This is the exact opposite of French speakers. For a French person, it's sometimes more important to be logical and cartesian than to be practical or just agree with others for the sake of communication. I am of course influenced by this mentality, although I try not to overdo it as some French people would (even if Silverpoint can't believe that there is worse than me on this).


Let me illustrate more specifically how I expain the concept of foreigness to Japanese, many of whom have never given the issue a single thought. I find that lack of thought to be a blessing in a way. But I digress.

That's also what I mean when I say they choose not to be logical. They don't waste time pondering over a definition. It can indeed be a blessing, but when discussing cultural differences with non-Japanese (like we are doing), it can lead to confusion.

I think that the misconceptions I was complaining about above are mostly due to a similar lack of reflection. For example, they know that countries like France or the UK have 4 seasons (and of course, Belgium too, as it's about in between the two), but they ask about it anyway because they never gave it a good thought or tried to answered that themselves. I am sure that they don't want to confirm what they were taught and actually know the answer, because I have been asked this question by people who have been many times to Western Europe, and I asked them what kind of weather they had. Then they realised by themselves that indeed there were seasons there too, without my having to tell them.

What I find most interesting is that so many Japanese ask this question (rarely when first meeting someone, though. Usually when the discussion leads to it, the cherry blossom and koyo seasons being the most propitious times). Why ask it if they could answer it by themselves ? Because they usually never tried to answer it by themselves. Why ? Because of the education system that does teach them to wonder and answer questions by themselves. They are taught to memorise and do like everyone else. They are not taught critical thinking and doubting what people say. In other words, if somebody doesn't give them the answer, they won't try to find it by themselves. I find this cultural specificity of utmost interest, but sometimes quite annoying (because my education taught to think the exact opposite way and even distrust information that my mind could not confirm on its own).



Let's take the term 国語. Anyone worth his salt knows that 国語 and 日本語 are not the same thing. 国語, in its most basic meaning, is the native language of a given country. Or more accurately, [その国において公的なものとされている言語。 その国 の公用語。自国の言語。] (Quote from 広辞苑、5th ed.) When a Japanese says 国語, they are referring to 自国の言語, or the language of one's own country. Namely, Japanese.

I agree with that. I noticed that the Chinese also use 国語 to mean Chinese.
When talking about my schooling in my country (in Japanese), I used the word 国語 to refer to my mother-tongue's classes, and they never assumed that it meant Japanese.



So you see, Japanese people can understand the relativity of the term 国語; it's just a matter that they never have to in their daily lives.

Yes. Again, they 'can' understand the relativity of the term. But if you ask them directly whether the word could mean another language than Japanese or not, most have never given a good thought. It's not useful for them to wonder about that in their daily life, so they don't do it (contrarily to us who discuss it eventhough it is not "useful", just interesting or mentally stimulating :p ).


There is nothing wrong with that, but there IS such a thing as over-analyzing something. Even the master himself said, "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar." (I'm referring of course to Sigmund Freud.) I ask that you keep this in mind as you make your analysis.

There are hundreds of ideas that have crossed my mind and that never expressed on the forum because it was too far-fetched or over-analysed. I already try to moderate myself. Some people have a low tolerance to in-depth analysis (like Silverpoint), others a bit more, and others crave for it. I also love analysing, comparing and interpretating statistics, but I am aware that no everybody does.


It's easy to become hyper-sensitive to foreigner issues when one lives in Japan as a foreigner.

That is true. Repetition of small things with little consequence can get on one's nerves seriously in the long term.

Maciamo
Oct 8, 2005, 19:19
Have you noticed that there are kinds of arts in Japan? Even for drinking tea.
Both Chinese and Japanese people like things to be arts. We like to appriciate what we do.

Are you implying that Western cultures do not have similar arts ? Maybe that is because you live in the US where everything is so straightforward and factual. Just look at the rules for drinking tea in the UK. They are probably as strict as the Japanese tea ceremony (and stricter than the Chinese one). Young generations tend to lose this, but there are many 'artistic' rules just to hold one's fork and knife, how to place the cover on the table, how to hold a glass of wine properly, look at it properly, smel it properly and drink it properly... It's usually not call "art" but "sciences" although it is almost exactly the same. Ikebana has an equivalent in several European countries (e.g. Austrians call it "Gebinde"). In fact, I know quite a few Japanese who are learning European-style flower arrangement (or floristry) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flower_arrangement). As for 書道 (shodou), there is also "calligraphy" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calligraphy#Western_calligraphy) in Europe.

What's more, most of the so-called "Japanese arts" are actually Chinese at the origin, from 書道 to 武士道. Even garden landscaping in Japan was typically copied directly on China. So I find it strange that I've heard so many Japanese pride themselves (like you just did) on their "Japanese arts", when most of it is a variant on the original Chinese art. Even origami, fireworks, rice paper, or arched bridges are all of Chinese origin. This may shock the Japanese pride, but even 花見 (hanami, "blossom viewing") is originally from China. Ume (plum), sakura (cherry) and momo (peach), which are often described by the Japanese are typically Japanese trees (sakura is even the national symbol) were all trees indigenous to China that were imported to Japan.

Sorry, my aim was not to offend you, but just to show you that it is all too common for Japanese people to think that their country and culture is unique, when in fact the "typically Japanese things" have equivalents, or even their origins, in other countries. This tends to get on my nerves, as for many Japanese the Western world lacks the "refinement and sensibility" of Japanese culture, just because they take the US as a model and forget about true Western culture in Europe. It's quite incredible how self-aware the Japanese can be, but how ignorant they are of the rest of the world. The main difference between Europe and Japan is that the Japanese make a lot of fuss about the few things that they define as Japanese, while most Europeans cannot even tell a fraction of their country's traditional culture or arts because they don't care.

Mikawa Ossan
Oct 8, 2005, 19:20
In my experience, when I explained the logic of "gaikokujin" being relative to the country where one is, the Japanese understand what I mean, and even agree in principle. I am not saying that the Japanese cannot understand logic, I am saying that they prefer not to be logical by choice.
That's also what I mean when I say they choose not to be logical. They don't waste time pondering over a definition. All we can do is plant the seed.

It can indeed be a blessing, but when discussing cultural differences with non-Japanese (like we are doing), it can lead to confusion.I agree. That's why word choice is so important.


What I find most interesting is that so many Japanese ask this question (rarely when first meeting someone, though. Usually when the discussion leads to it, the cherry blossom and koyo seasons being the most propitious times). I wish one could type intonations...I usually reply 当然 りますよ in the same way I imagine a typical Japanese would respond to the same question. I rarely get asked that, though. I WAS recently asked if we do 月見 in America. I responded in the negative.


Yes. Again, they 'can' understand the relativity of the term. But if you ask them directly whether the word could mean another language than Japanese or not, most have never given a good thought. It's not useful for them to wonder about that in their daily life, so they don't do it (contrarily to us who discuss it eventhough it is not "useful", just interesting or mentally stimulating :p ).Once again, all we can do is plant the seed.


That is true. Repetition of small things with little consequence can get on one's nerves seriously in the long term.That's why it's so important to be able to shield yourself from them. :wave:

Maciamo
Oct 8, 2005, 19:30
I WAS recently asked if we do 月見 in America. I responded in the negative.

I think that the Neo-pagans do. In the UK, the Neo-pagans go to ancient sites like Stonehenge and make rituals worshipping the sun and the moon at the solstices and equinoxes. It's very similar to tsukimi (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsukimi), which by the way is also of Chinese origin.

I found a new game. I thought it might be amusing to quiz the Japanese about their own culture and ask them whether each "item" in the list is truly Japanese or comes from China (see above post).

pipokun
Oct 8, 2005, 20:11
I think that the Neo-pagans do. In the UK, the Neo-pagans go to ancient sites like Stonehenge and make rituals worshipping the sun and the moon at the solstices and equinoxes. It's very similar to tsukimi (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsukimi), which by the way is also of Chinese origin.

I found a new game. I thought it might be amusing to quiz the Japanese about their own culture and ask them whether each "item" in the list is truly Japanese or comes from China (see above post).

Sounds interesting game!
But I'm afraid the result would show what kind of friends/people you usually talk to...

Maciamo
Oct 8, 2005, 20:51
Sounds interesting game!
But I'm afraid the result would show what kind of friends/people you usually talk to...

No. I could make an online quiz in Japanese for registered Japanese members.

But it would be too easy to cheat as I've just written this thread (http://www.wa-pedia.com/forum/showthread.php?t=19765) withh the answers.

Gaijinian
Oct 9, 2005, 00:27
I don't mean to sound like a parent, but you're too young to drink. If your friends are underage and drinking, that, too, is bad. If they are "of age" and letting you drink, that is irresponsible. They should not be drinking with you (in front of you) in any case. (I understand you were joking, but underage drinking is a serious topic.)
Valid point. But yes, just a joke.
Cannot have a drop of alcohol, especially sake (from what I have heard adout the taste...).


Of course, if you mean 外人 in the first sense above, that's different. But that brings up the subject of what 仲間 you're talking about. Personally, I've never heard 外人 clearly being used in this context.

I usually mean 敵視すべき人, but I guess in a sardonic way.
--
Here is another intresting topic: Once I went to Belize, and obviously did not cross any ocean. I said 外海する, but corrected myself. However, my Japanese friend told me that since Japan is an Island, is is OK :28: to use that verb, even if it is not a "real" gaikai, but just a kokusai ryokou.

In that same sence, it seems you could say "gaijin," and mean not Japanese. Any thoughts?
EDIT:: (just look at my sig, I guess that involves 仲間, which is a relative term, like you said...)

_____


All that talk about kokugo
But, is the same thing true in Chinese? No, I think 国语( 語)=普通话(普通話), China's offical language, no matter where you say it... But I'm not sure...

Elizabeth
Oct 9, 2005, 02:29
I am someone who likes to analyse things, and reflect about what people say and how they behave. Not everyone is like me (few people are, I think), but one cannot change personality or sensitivity just like that because it would make life in Japan easier.



Don't you find this amazing ? It may be difficult for native English speakers to imagine what foreign language to speak to a foreigner. But I have grown up in several non-English speaking countries, and never did anyone try by default to speak English with someone, even if they knew for sure they were foreigners. It's something the Japanese do, and I cannot understand why in my or your case, it takes them so long to understand that just speaking normally in their mother tongue is the easiest way to communicate. It's usually fairly evident after a few seconds of conversation between 2 people which language works best. Maybe that's again the lack of critical sense. They can't judge things like that by themselves (well, some do, but as you said they are exceptions).
My experience has been certainly that the vast majority of Japanese will prefer their native language but for those parts I have difficulty with, instead of speaking more slowly or trying a simpler explanation they immediately revert to English. When I reply in Japanese and they get it, they will revert back. It's almost as logical as asking a station master an involved series of questions on the line I need to take with all the transfers and having them respond by typing in the platform number on their calculator. :bluush: It could be a lack of critical thinking or simply a misguided understanding of how to avoid embarrassing a foreigner. :?

Elizabeth
Oct 9, 2005, 02:46
When I went on a sightseeing tour in Shanghai with a Japanese group, I couldn't help noticing that eventhough they were in China, they called the Chinese gaijin. I have heard Japanese in Europe refer to locals as 'gaijin'. So the term does not change in function of the environment. Logically, the 'outsiders' or 'foreigners' are those who do not live in the country. But it is so deeply rooted in the Japanese mind, that where ever on earth, anyone that isn't or does not look Japanese is always a 'gaijin'. I asked my wife : "Aren't we the gaijin here in China ?", but she wasn't too sure. Although it sounded logical, she understood why other Japanese referered to locals as 'gaijin'. That is one of the thing that make me believe that the Japanese are not linguistically logical people.
If she wasn't confident one way or the other, maybe gaijin or gaikokujin is really is losing some of the old 残っている疑感と軽べつ nuance.

詳しい事情はわかりませんが、日本語だったらこんな感 じでしょう。:D

studyonline
Oct 9, 2005, 05:19
Are you implying that Western cultures do not have similar arts ? Maybe that is because you live in the US where everything is so straightforward and factual.

No. Not implying. And your guess for my choice in living in the U.S. is wrong, too. I never gave you my reason of the choice.


Even garden landscaping in Japan was typically copied directly on China. So I find it strange that I've heard so many Japanese pride themselves (like you just did) on their "Japanese arts", when most of it is a variant on the original Chinese art.

If I was so prideful, I would never mention China.


Sorry, my aim was not to offend you, but just to show you that it is all too common for Japanese people to think that their country and culture is unique, when in fact the "typically Japanese things" have equivalents, or even their origins, in other countries. This tends to get on my nerves, as for many Japanese the Western world lacks the "refinement and sensibility" of Japanese culture, just because they take the US as a model and forget about true Western culture in Europe. It's quite incredible how self-aware the Japanese can be, but how ignorant they are of the rest of the world.

It does not offend me at all, don't worry. Again, if I really thought all those arts are unique, I would never mention China and Chinese culture.



The main difference between Europe and Japan is that the Japanese make a lot of fuss about the few things that they define as Japanese, while most Europeans cannot even tell a fraction of their country's traditional culture or arts because they don't care.

If they don't care, then how can they even understand the spirit of arts? 「心技一体」 or 「精神統一」 are often quoted 四字熟語 for the spirit of martial arts as well as other Japanese arts. People in China and Japanese do work hard when they are serious. 一生懸命 spirit is not something you can take lightly. I do not think or mock other cultures, but I just simply said that that was way of life in Japanese culture (or used to be). By the way, in case you didn't know I am half Chinese (Taiwanese). Your guessing that I was neglecting of the knowledge on Chinese culture is wrong.

Gaijinian
Oct 9, 2005, 05:49
I think Maciamo meant Japanese people in general; don't take it personally, studyonline-san.

Glenn
Oct 9, 2005, 06:49
As I'll restate below, I believe that Mikawa Ossan has helped to prove my point. That said, I will now give a more detailed explanation of what I was talking about in my previous post.


Let me illustrate more specifically how I expain the concept of foreigness to Japanese, many of whom have never given the issue a single thought. I find that lack of thought to be a blessing in a way. But I digress.

And we use words in English without giving them a second thought all the time too.


Let's take the term 国語. Anyone worth his salt knows that 国語 and 日本語 are not the same thing. 国語, in its most basic meaning, is the native language of a given country. Or more accurately, [その国において公的なものとされている言語。 その国 の公用語。自国の言語。] (Quote from 広辞苑、5th ed.) When a Japanese says 国語, they are referring to 自国の言語, or the language of one's own country. Namely, Japanese. They would most likely not ever think of using it in terms of any other language.

I understand that, and that's why I said "one of its meanings is 'Japanese.'" In America, when someone says "for mother and country," does it ever occur to anyone what country they may be talking about? When an American isn't in America and says the same thing, does it make anyone wonder if they're talking about whatever country they're in? This does depend slightly on context, of course. If it follows a Japanese person talking about Japan and being willing to sacrifice for it, then if an American uttered said phrase, "country" would most certainly mean Japan. But an American just saying "for mother and country" without context showing otherwise would most certainly mean "for mother and America." Notice my argument here isn't that "country"="America."

Do Japanese people always use 国語 to mean "Japanese?" I'm sure they don't, but I'd bet that most of the time, especially without specific and extraordinary context, they do. Apparently you think so too, since you said "they would most likely not ever think of using it in terms of any other language."

According to the 新漢語林, under the entry 国 is this listing, which is marked as being used in Japan only: くに。わが国。日本。「国語」「国文」(the bold typeface is not my own − the word appears that way in the dictionary). So there it's explicitly stated that the kanji can, on its own, mean Japan. A good example of this is 国字. Is there ever a doubt in anyone's mind when they hear this word which country is under discussion?

Back to 国語: quoting from the 明鏡国語辞典, I get (1)それぞれの国で、共通語または公用語として使っ ている言語。(2)日本語。(3)日本語の理解・表現 などを学習する、学校の教科。国語科。The 大辞林 has this to say:


こくご 0 【国語】

(1)国家を形成する成員が自国語として使用し、共通 語・公用語となっている言語。
(2)(自国語としての)日本語。
(3)漢語・外来語に対して、日本固有の語。和語。や まとことば。
(4)学校教育の教科の一。「国語科」に同じ。
「―の授業」
(5)書名(別項参照)。

Also from the 明鏡国語辞典, I get this definition for 国語学, which I think proves my point further: 日本語を対象とし、日本語の音韻・文字・語彙・文法・ 文体などを通時的・共時的に研究する学問。日本語学。 Additionally, from the 大辞林 I get this:


こくご-がく 3 【国語学】

言語学の一分野として、国語(2)すなわち日本語を研 究対象とする学問。日本語の音韻・語彙・文法等の言語 要素、およびそれらの歴史や地域差としての方言、文字 および文体などについて研究する。

Note that in both of these the sense of 国語 is explicitly stated as being Japanese. Applying this to 外(国)人 doesn't require a leap in logic in my mind. In fact, I'll quote from the 大辞林 again:


がいこく-じん ぐわい― 4 【外国人】

(1)他の国家の人民。外人。異国人。
⇔内国人
(2)日本の国籍をもたない者。法律上の地位は原則と して日本人と同一で るが、参政 ・鉱業所有 ・出入 国など、公法上・私法上の 利を制限されている。

がいじん ぐわい― 0 【外人】
(1)外国人。
「―選手」「―墓地」
(2)内輪でない人。他人。外部の人。
「―もなき所に兵具をととのへ/平家 1」

Since we're on definitions, I’d like to quote from Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary:


Main Entry: for・eign・er
Pronunciation: 'for-&-n&r, 'fa¨r-
Function: noun
1 : a person belonging to or owing allegiance to a foreign country
2 chiefly dialect : one not native to a place or community : STRANGER 1c

According to this definition, it is highly likely that an American can be in a foreign country and still consider the inhabitants "foreign," because technically they are. They belong to or owe allegiance to a foreign country. Does that mean that Americans would lack a notion of relativity or linguistic logic if they thought about it this way? I think that using "foreigner" to describe an inhabitant of a foreign country, no matter where the speaker is, is perfectly legitimate, because from the relative viewpoint of the speaker, the inhabitant is still "a person belonging to or owing allegiance to a foreign country." That is, the American identifies himself with America, and all other countries are foreign. Where the American is has no bearing on that, unless he has assimilated into the once foreign culture, which would make that culture familiar, thus not foreign. The issue of whether or not it is used that way is one of pragmatics and perspective, and not a language's speaker's ability to use logic.

In my mind it's perfectly fine for Japanese people to think of 国 as Japan when not marked otherwise. It's probably a narrowing of the original term, but then again when we say "deer" in English we don’t mean "animal," but a specific animal. The same is true for "affection" not meaning "emotion" anymore, but a specific emotion. More recently, "gay" isn't generally used to mean "happy" anymore. The process is called specification, and is one of the processes of semantic change (http://www.langmaker.com/ml0104.htm#2b).

Furthermore, it seems that the first dictionary entry shows the original sense of the word, while the latter definitions show the more current and widely used sense of the word. For example, look at "enormity (http://m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?book=Dictionary&va=enormity&x=0&y=0)," "gay (http://m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?book=Dictionary&va=gay&x=0&y=0)," and "comprise (http://m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?book=Dictionary&va=comprise&x=0&y=0)." These are three examples where the original meaning comes first, and the newer meanings after. You’ll notice that under both the 国語 and 外(国)人 headwords the "Japanese" versions come second, third, etc.

One may not like this process, or think that it is generated by the lack of reasoning power of the speakers of a language, but this is common in all languages, so it isn't fair to single out the Japanese in this regard, if in fact anyone is.

I realize that I've jumped back and forth between 国語 and 外(国)人 here, but I believe that they are closely enough related that my point won't get lost in my doing so. After all, the main point is about the 国 part of the words, so I believe I'm justified in a little jumping around between them.



But we foreigners can do so quite easily, as long as you qualify it by stating something like, 「私の国の国語」, when referring to your own language in the same sense that Japanese generally do when they speak of Japanese 国語. To be more specific, the subject at school. (For my purposes here, before university, but I can make the case for University as well. It's just longer.)

Yes, but you mark it with 私の国の, and that is what sets it apart.


I agree with that. I noticed that the Chinese also use 国語 to mean Chinese.

Yes, but it more specifically means Taiwanese Mandarin. That's context dependent, though.


When talking about my schooling in my country (in Japanese), I used the word 国語 to refer to my mother-tongue's classes, and they never assumed that it meant Japanese.

I can see that, because you are obviously not Japanese, and there was most likely lexical context (alongside the visual and historical context) that showed you weren't talking about Japanese. But I get the feeling that when you say 国語 to refer to your 母国語, the Japanese think of it as 外国語 (or maybe your 母国語, but either way not as 国語 as they think of it). When you used the word I'd guess they were taken aback at first, and then figured that you weren't talking about Japanese, unless you set it up as such. If you haven't already, ask them about that. I'd be curious to know whether I'm close on this one.


Just as Japanese do not learn 日本語 , but rather 国語 at school, people where I grew up did not learn English (in the sense that English is taught in say Japan), but rather 国語. In this sense, it's American 国語 or American English. Since Japanese lump the Japanese grammar, vocabulary, kanji, and literature that they learned at school into the term 国語, I do the same for the English grammar, vocabulary, spelling, and literature that I learned at school.

Right. In elementary/primary/grammar school we learn "language" (or at least I did). Funny, too, that we even use "grammar" to refer to elementary educational institutes, don't you think? Perhaps we aren't so logical, because certainly we don't just learn grammar at that stage or at those types of schools.

Anyway, my point wasn't that 国語=日本語 so much as it is used to mean 日本語 quite extensively, as you pointed out. The only difference between the two terms is the inclusion of literature in the former, which would account for why 国語 is the term for the school subject and not just the language, but still they usually mean Japanese language and literature when they say it. That was my point in bringing it up.


I don't know whether I conveyed what I wanted to say clearly or not, but every single I put the concept of 国語 in these terms in Japanese, every single person understood what I meant the first time around.

So you see, Japanese people can understand the relativity of the term 国語; it's just a matter that they never have to in their daily lives. Still, it's one of those concepts that makes perfect sense once one has been told correctly.

I never doubted that they could understand it, or that it could be used that way.

I think the issue here is one of pragmatics over linguistic logic. After all, we use many words in English that don't necessarily mean what they logically should. Does that make us all idiots? If you think so, then be careful the next time you use the word "autopsy" to refer to an examination of a dead body. How logical is it for a corpse to examine itself? Similarly, using "self-study" to refer to studying on your own is illogical.

My main point was not to say that either 国語 or 外(国)人 can't refer to languages other than Japanese or the Japanese people, respectively, but that it doesn't in general use, and that they don't violate the parts of the words in doing so. I see a huge difference there, and it doesn’t involve the lack of the Japanese people's ability to use logic or think relatively.

So finally, I stand by my statement that it's perfectly legitimate for Japanese people to refer to people who aren't Japanese as 外(国)人, and that it doesn't violate the meanings of the parts of the word, and also that it doesn't indicate a lack of logical thinking ability on the part of the Japanese.


But, is the same thing true in Chinese? No, I think 国語( 語)=普通話(普通話), China's offical language, no matter where you say it... But I'm not sure...

No. 普通話 is the standard language, which is based on the Beijing pronunciation scheme (although not quite the same -- it gets complicated). 国語 refers to the Taiwanese standard of Mandarin.

Gaijinian
Oct 9, 2005, 08:27
What do we have here?
From Glenn's post,
外国人
2)日本の国籍をもたない者。
Maybe I was not so far off?
--
I think since non-Japanese cannot speak Japanese (as far as they are concerned; which is probably not too far...), the speaker is implied to be Japanese, and the 仲間 refers to the speaker of The Japanese language(=The Japanese people). Same general idea for "gaikai."

Elizabeth
Oct 9, 2005, 10:03
What do we have here?
From Glenn's post,
外国人
2)日本の国籍をもたない者。
Maybe I was not so far off?
It really does totally depend on the situation and context. If I were with a Japanese person who referred to me as "gaijin" as a reason I couldn't speak Japanese, that is the obvious usage. If I were with them in a neutral European third-country and my "gaijin" status is a reflection of my not being familar with local customs, obviously it has nothing to do with being Japanese and applies equally to the both of us as well as, from our perspectives, the nationals of that country for not being American or Japanese. At least that is the logical extrapolation from the English understanding of a 'foreigner.' 

The most interesting question is what circumstances a Japanese person would use giajin or gaikokujin in relation to themselves.

外人は『よそ者』というような感じを持っているので具 体的に
国籍を表す言葉を使うほうが無難ですね。

Gaijinian
Oct 9, 2005, 10:14
Elizabeth, you lived in Japan, right? Since I don't have any "real" experience, I cannot say for sure, but it seems "gaikokujin" is almost never used.

Heh, I'm so out of the loop... Even though I have decent Japanese, it is, along with any cultural knowledge, entirely "洋製和" and "経験に基づけず," if you know what I mean... :bawling:

Elizabeth
Oct 9, 2005, 11:03
Elizabeth, you lived in Japan, right? Since I don't have any "real" experience, I cannot say for sure, but it seems "gaikokujin" is almost never used.

Heh, I'm so out of the loop... Even though I have decent Japanese, it is, along with any cultural knowledge, entirely "洋製和" and "経験に基づけず," if you know what I mean... :bawling:
Gaikokujin is probably more common, mostly used in business or legal contexts and more polite than gaijin which is why you don't see it around here. :-)

以前、東京の日本語学校で3ヶ月間ほぼホームステイして通っただけですよ。 :(
しかし、毎日のように日本人の友達と喋るし、一年5− 6回日本へ行ったりするようにしています。

がんばって勉強しようと思う気持ちが るので、いつか 自然に話せるようになると思います。 :relief:

Mikawa Ossan
Oct 9, 2005, 17:25
Hello, again! I'm getting to really like Glenn! :-)

And we use words in English without giving them a second thought all the time too.Actually, I was referring to the fact that Japanese people in general don't seem to think about what foreigness is in the abstract sense. At this particular point in time, I was not intending to limit this idea to the concrete word 外人. Notice that I was not making a value judgement and I did not exclude non-Japanese specifically. This is off-topic, but I personally that most people have never thought about the abstract concept of foreigness because for the vast majority of people, it's just not pertinent.

I agree with Glenn's statement 100%, but it actually adresses a slightly different point.


But an American just saying "for mother and country" without context showing otherwise would most certainly mean "for mother and America." Notice my argument here isn't that "country"="America."
Do Japanese people always use 国語 to mean "Japanese?" I'm sure they don't, but I'd bet that most of the time, especially without specific and extraordinary context, they do. Apparently you think so too, since you said "they would most likely not ever think of using it in terms of any other language."We acrtually disagree much less than you might think.

First of all, my point is that the possibility of using the term 国語 to refer to anything other than Japanese inherently exists withing the meaning of the term itself. Nothing more, nothing less.
Almost all Japanese people seem to have no consciousness of this existance, and therefore "would most likely not ever think of using it" in such a way. But this is not just confined to the utterence of the word by Japanese people, but also should they hear it uttered by a non-Japanese to refer to the native language of said non-Japanese utterer.

I say this because in every case when I have said 国語 without specific context, the Japanese person I'm talking to has instantly assumed that I'm talking about Japanese 国語 without exception. For example, 「学生のころできるだけ国語の授業を避けたんだよね」 . The response I would almost inevitably receive is something like, "What are you talking about? You don't learn kokugo in America!" (What do you think is meant here? Japanese 国語 of course.) If I then explain in something like the following terms,

だって、本来、国語って、どういうことなんだろう?そ の国の言葉のことだろうね。たまたま日本での言葉は日 本語だから一般的にそれを国語というんだけど、俺の国 の言葉は日本語じゃなくて英語だから、アメリカ人の立 場から見ると英語が国語じゃないか?

they'll understand.

However, I found that a much more natural and efficient way to speak is to say something like アメリカの国語の授業. Often the conversation takes a brief pause as my Japanese counterpart contemplates that statement for a moment, but then always seems convinced without explanation.

So basically I think that the occurence of a Japanese person using 国語 to mean something other than Japanese, although not nonexistant, happens so infrequently that it approaches zero.

But the posibility that it can be used in such a way exists. That is what is important.
According to the 新漢語林, under the entry 国 is this listing, which is marked as being used in Japan only:

くに。わが国。日本。「国語」「国文」

(the bold typeface is not my own − the word appears that way in the dictionary). So there it's explicitly stated that the kanji can, on its own, mean Japan. Note that I never once disagreed with your stating that 国 can refer to Japan specifically. However, I would argue that that is relative, also. Once again, I quote 広辞苑(5th ed.)
【国字】こくじ
@その国の国語を表記するための文字。また、その国で 公式に採用されている文字。
A日本の文字。かな。
B日本で作られた漢字。「榊(さかき)」「辻」の類。 和字。 <=>漢字Although given the context, usually meaning 2 and especially 3 is meant, given the same reasoning as I applied to 国語, Japanese people can easily understand 国字 used in a context other than referring to Japanese.


Back to 国語I don't thing your examples using 国語 definitions help or harm your case in any way whatsoever.

Your next point was interesting, however.
Also from the 明鏡国語辞典, I get

this definition for 国語学, which I think proves my point further: 日本語を対象とし、日本語の音韻・文字・語彙・文法・ 文体などを通時的・共時的に研究する学問。日本語学。 Additionally, from the 大辞林 I get this:

Quote:
Originally Posted by 大辞林
こくご-がく 3 【国語学】

言語学の一分野として、国語(2)すなわち日本語を研 究対象とする学問。日本語の音韻・ 語彙・文法等の言語要素、およびそれらの歴史や地域差 としての方言、文字および文体などについて研究する。 I will not argue not with these definitions as put. Futher, my buddy 広辞苑 states
こくごがく【国語学】国語Aを研究の対象とする学問。 日本語の音韻・語彙・文法等について歴史的・地理的、 また体系的・個別的に研究する。Even further, 広辞苑 has this to say about 外国人:
がいこくじん【外国人】
@ほかの国家の人民。異国の人。
A日本の国籍を有しないひと。Oh no! Is this the end of Mikawa Ossan? :shock:

I don't think so.

Perhaps I was hard on Gaijinian. Perhaps I was stressing the relative @ meaning of 外国人 too much at the expense of the stricter A meaning.

However, I did this because so many people, non-Japanese included, seem to use the gaijin moniker exclusively for non-Japanese people. It's as if Japanese people can NEVER be 外人 or 外国人. Or, put in the reverse, a non-Japanese is ALWAYS a 外人 or 外国人. Regardless of circumstances or point of view. I disagree with these premises. That is the heart of what I'm really trying to say.

I used one extreme to fight another. I admit this freely.

Glenn
Oct 9, 2005, 18:37
Hello, again! I'm getting to really like Glenn! :-)

Why thank you. You're not so bad yourself. :p:-)


Actually, I was referring to the fact that Japanese people in general don't seem to think about what foreigness is in the abstract sense. At this particular point in time, I was not intending to limit this idea to the concrete word 外人. Notice that I was not making a value judgement and I did not exclude non-Japanese specifically. This is off-topic, but I personally that most people have never thought about the abstract concept of foreigness because for the vast majority of people, it's just not pertinent.

I know you weren't making a value judgement. Remember my first post (http://www.wa-pedia.com/forum/showthread.php?p=262030#post262030)? My whole argument was that for a Japanese person to consider people who aren't Japanese to be 外人 isn't a sign of illogic, but of a different perspective. I then attempted to show in my last post that we English speakers also have this problem of perspective, where we don't consider foreigners to be foreign just because we're in their country, when location doesn't really matter at all as far as the definition given by Merriam-Webster's is concerned. That is, ours is just a different way of looking at the picture; it doesn't mean that it's the right or the only way.

Also the point that most people don't think about the abstract concept of foreigness because it's not pertinent is even more of a reason that the conclusion that Japanese people are linguistically illogical is incorrect, and that was my whole point from the outset.


We acrtually disagree much less than you might think.

I actually didn't think we disagreed all that much in the first place. I was mostly using what you said to show that it basically proved my point. I know it came off as looking like I was arguing against you, though. :sorry:


But this is not just confined to the utterence of the word by Japanese people, but also should they hear it uttered by a non-Japanese to refer to the native language of said non-Japanese utterer.

I say this because in every case when I have said 国語 without specific context, the Japanese person I'm talking to has instantly assumed that I'm talking about Japanese 国語 without exception. For example, 「学生のころできるだけ国語の授業を避けたんだよね」 . The response I would almost inevitably receive is something like, "What are you talking about? You don't learn kokugo in America!" (What do you think is meant here? Japanese 国語 of course.)

And that's the confirmation of this assumption:


I can see that, because you are obviously not Japanese, and there was most likely lexical context (alongside the visual and historical context) that showed you weren't talking about Japanese. But I get the feeling that when you say 国語 to refer to your 母国語, the Japanese think of it as 外国語 (or maybe your 母国語, but either way not as 国語 as they think of it). When you used the word I'd guess they were taken aback at first, and then figured that you weren't talking about Japanese, unless you set it up as such. If you haven't already, ask them about that. I'd be curious to know whether I'm close on this one.


So basically I think that the occurence of a Japanese person using 国語 to mean something other than Japanese, although not nonexistant, happens so infrequently that it approaches zero.

This goes to show that it's inherent for Japanese people to think of themselves as an "in group" and everyone else as an "out group," which would mean that it does not logically follow that location changes the state of someone's "gaijinness." That is, they think of themselves as 国人 and everyone else is 外国人, and that doesn't violate any logic. That was the point I was trying to make in the first place. It was a direct response to this statement:


I have heard Japanese in Europe refer to locals as 'gaijin'. So the term does not change in function of the environment. Logically, the 'outsiders' or 'foreigners' are those who do not live in the country. But it is so deeply rooted in the Japanese mind, that where ever on earth, anyone that isn't or does not look Japanese is always a 'gaijin'. I asked my wife : "Aren't we the gaijin here in China ?", but she wasn't too sure. Although it sounded logical, she understood why other Japanese referered to locals as 'gaijin'. That is one of the thing that make me believe that the Japanese are not linguistically logical people.

My argument is that the Japanese being linguistically illogical people does not follow from the term 外人 not changing function due to environment.


However, I did this because so many people, non-Japanese included, seem to use the gaijin moniker exclusively for non-Japanese people. It's as if Japanese people can NEVER be 外人 or 外国人. Or, put in the reverse, a non-Japanese is ALWAYS a 外人 or 外国人. Regardless of circumstances or point of view. I disagree with these premises. That is the heart of what I'm really trying to say.

So we've been arguing about two different things. Your argument: 外人 can mean someone who is an alien, and not just non-Japanese. My argument: Japanese people using 外人 to refer to non-Japanese does not mean that they are linguistically illogical people.

Also note that we have agreed through seeming disagreement that the term is relative, but that mostly it's used to refer to non-Japanese, just as 国語 is mostly used to refer to the Japanese language (and literature). I never argued otherwise.


I used one extreme to fight another. I admit this freely.

Haha, that made me laugh. :D

Mikawa Ossan
Oct 9, 2005, 19:00
So we've been arguing about two different things. Your argument: 外人 can mean someone who is an alien, and not just non-Japanese. My argument: Japanese people using 外人 to refer to non-Japanese does not mean that they are linguistically illogical people.
I was going to make a longer reply, but it all boils down to this.

Could you imagine if I'd posted a longer reply? We could have argued past one another forever!:note:

Now back to the original thread... :evil:

Mikawa Ossan
Oct 10, 2005, 00:17
I just had a horrible evening. It was pure hell, and I could only wish to express how happy I feel that now it's over. The worst part is that it really was a happy evening. I shall explain.

One of my friends got married today. She is Japanese, of course. Her new husband is not, however. He is American, and honestly he seemed like a nice guy (I met him for the first time today.) I am truly very happy for them, and I wish them only the best for the future.

But being American, of course all of the guests on his list were American. Most of the guests on my friend's list were young women interested in foreigners. Not a good mix for me personally. I'll spare you the details, but I felt intensely isolated from the fun.

The only thing that gave me solace were the staff at the place. They spoke to me the same way they would have spoken to any (Japanese) guest, and I wanted to talk to them sooo much more!

Even in this environment, the staff did not assume that I could not speak Japanese. They didn't assume that I COULD speak either, but as soon as I spoke in Japanese once, they never tried to talk to me in English again.

So getting back in line with the original thread topic, I think that although you will meet up with people who make assumptions that you can not speak Japanese (at all) from time to time, the vast majority of average Japanese people would rather not speak English even to foreigners if they don't have to. They would much rather prefer to speak in their native tongue.

GaijinPunch
Oct 10, 2005, 10:32
I disagree with you here. If we consider that one of the meanings for 国 is "our country," that is, "Japan," then everyone else is a 外国人 no matter where a Japanese person is.

I'd say "gaijin" now a term to refer to non-Japnaese (often caucasian) no matter where they. Most Japanese (that I know, including my wife) refer to Americans (here in Hawaii) as gaijin. Might have something to do w/ the fact that she doesn't like it here, and doesn't consider it her home. As for "kuni". I'm always asked by cab drivers, "国はどちらですか?". I guess at worst I've been asked "国はアメリカですか?" I don't think anyone has ever assumed I'm American, although of course, they've assumed I speak English. Hence, I have to question the people that Maciamo surrounds himself with.


Gaikokujin is probably more common, mostly used in business or legal contexts and more polite than gaijin which is why you don't see it around here.

You'll never see "gaijin" used on a business form or notice of any sort. You'd need to be pretty acquainted with a person to be called so. I don't know of any gaijin that's bothered by the term, but then again, country in question is famous for non-confrontation.

Maciamo
Oct 10, 2005, 14:28
I guess at worst I've been asked "国はアメリカですか?" I don't think anyone has ever assumed I'm American, although of course, they've assumed I speak English. Hence, I have to question the people that Maciamo surrounds himself with.

Watch out that people who shout "Hello America !" or the like in the street are people that I don't know at all. Among those I know reasonably well, only 3 or 4 have asked me things like "How do you do in America ?" when they knew very well I was not American. But I also have a Korean friend who did the same. When I went to Shanghai (just 3 days) a person in the shop also assumed I was American. When travelling around S-E Asia, it happened a few times too that people would say "Hello America !" (especially in Thailand, which is weird as so many European tourists go there, probably much more than American ones). So it is not just a Japanese phenomon but an East Asian one. In 5 months in India, nobody ever assumed I was American...

Mike Cash
Oct 10, 2005, 15:31
You'll never see "gaijin" used on a business form or notice of any sort. You'd need to be pretty acquainted with a person to be called so. I don't know of any gaijin that's bothered by the term, but then again, country in question is famous for non-confrontation.

I've said it before, but it bears repeating:

I don't mind being referred to as "gaijin".
I do object to being addressed as "gaijin" (or "gaijin-san").

Kinsao
Oct 10, 2005, 23:35
Watch out that people who shout "Hello America !" or the like in the street are people that I don't know at all.

Just to refer a little to this and your post preceding it in which you gave the examples... There are areas in England where an Asian person (not east Asian) will get shouted at "Paki!" and other racist comments, even if they are not from Pakistan at all, and even if they have were born and raised in England and have never left its shores. I'm not saying it's exactly the same scenario, but there are similarities between these ignorant behaviours and the Japanese people who shout "Hello America!" and such at Western people. There are some areas where this is very prevalent, and some areas where it doesn't happen much at all - it is the luck of the draw. Unacceptable behaviour towards "foreigners" is of course something that happens in all countries - it just manifests itself differently.

I am not referring here to your original irritation about the chopsticks/sushi etc. etc. questions, because that is a different... errr... kettle of fish (no pun was intented, honestly! :p )


I just had a horrible evening. It was pure hell, and I could only wish to express how happy I feel that now it's over. The worst part is that it really was a happy evening. I shall explain.

You have my sympathy - it does sound like a totally un-fun night out. But thank goodness for the staff and their polite behaviour. :relief:

Sorry to not comment more intelligently, but I somewhat lost the thread as I don't read Japanese. :sorry:

Gaijinian
Oct 11, 2005, 08:15
日本人は“外人”にだまして会話しないで日本語が出来 ていないと決めておくなんて胡麻菓子(New favorite word)だ!

GaijinPunch
Oct 11, 2005, 08:32
Watch out that people who shout "Hello America !" or the like in the street are people that I don't know at all. Among those I know reasonably well, only 3 or 4 have asked me things like "How do you do in America ?" when they knew very well I was not American.

Do you REALLY think this happens to all foreigners? Ever thought that maybe you're just unlucky? Even when I lived in Shizuoka, where people admitedly have much less experience with foreigners I was never said, "Hello America," by anyone. The worst was maybe some junior high school girls giggling when I walked by, or maybe a 5 year old pointing at me from across the street. For all I know my zipper was undone.


I don't mind being referred to as "gaijin".
I do object to being addressed as "gaijin" (or "gaijin-san").

I would feel the same, but I've never been referred to as anything other than okyaku-san by someone I don't know, and either my name, or some jokingly derrogatory term by my friends. I've had this handle long before this board. Even then, my Japanese friends abbreviated it as "Punch" rather than "Gaijin".

Maciamo
Oct 11, 2005, 09:04
Do you REALLY think this happens to all foreigners? Ever thought that maybe you're just unlucky? Even when I lived in Shizuoka, where people admitedly have much less experience with foreigners I was never said, "Hello America," by anyone.

As Kinsao said, like in England, there are areas where it happens and other where it doesn't. It never happened to me in crowded places full of Westerners like Ginza or Shinjuku. But it happened in my Shitamachi neighbourhood (only twice though) and it happens frequently when I go to Tokyo's remote suburbs (e.g. around Kashiwa or Funabashi in Chiba pref.) and even more when I travel to the countryside. Last month, I was walking with my sister and her boyfriend in my neighbourhood and a group of older men sitting along the street started saying all stupid things as we passed them by. This included "America", "This is a pen", etc. When we were in the train outside Tokyo, some kids would not stop starring at us, giggling and saying "gaijin, gaijin !", in the same way that just anybody (not just kids) would say "farang, farang !" (same meaning) in Thailand. Very often, when I take the lift/elevator, even in central Tokyo, when the door open and I face one or several Japanese, they typically look surprise and say in audible voice "gaijin !". This has happened when I went to the Izakaya with Thomas for example (among dozens of other times).

Sometimes these "gaijin" muttering Japanese ask just after "Are you America ?". So, in the end, there is little difference between called "gaijin" or "America", as for most Japanese it is equivalent. It's still pretty annoying. I can still understand it in Thailand, as it's a developing country where 99% people are not very educated and have never left their country (at least have never been to a Western country). I thought Japan was different, but visibly, even though most Japanese have been abroad (even if it's only Hawaii) and have learnt English at school, they still behave like people in developing countries.

Ma Cherie
Oct 11, 2005, 11:31
You know Maciamo, I would think you'd be use to some of those remarks by now. But then I don't know how long you've been living in Japan. :? I still wonder, I read most of your post and it doesn't seem like there has been a instant where a japanese person didn't make the assumption that you were from America. Or asked you where you were from, or assumed that you could speak japanese. You're a teacher, right? Have you ever gave lectures on cultural differences about Europe? I know you teach English and Italian, and teaching another language doesn't just mean learning about the language, it also means learning about the people who speak it. :p I'm just curious, but I was wondering, what are you doing to help change the way some japanese people think about the West? :-)

Bucko
Oct 11, 2005, 11:59
Lived in Japan for a total of about 9 months now, never once heard the word "gaijin" uttered like Maciamo says. The only one time I did hear it was when my friend and I were arm wresling these big Japanese dudes and they were talking about how strong they thought gaijin were. But I have many times been called an American, this annoys me and I usually give them a weird look "American?????". Another thing that bugs me is when service staff speak to me in English, like at a resturant or somewhere. It usually happens when I mishear what was said. The moment they see I didn't catch what they said the first time, they go into "thinking mode" (eye in the air,"ahh") and blurt out something in English. For so long now I've wanted to reply "eigo wakaranai" but it all usually happens too quickly and I just want my burger or whatever.

Bucko
Oct 11, 2005, 12:07
By the way, one of my main motivations for learning Japanese the amount of times I've heard how "difficult" it is. One dry boring girl said to me once, in a room full of other students, "it will take you 10 years to learn beginner Japanese". I was new to the country so I was like "10 years?!?!". You could tell she was one of those nationalistic, WWII denying types. If only I could go up to her now and show her what I've learnt in 10 months of proper study. I already shock people when they realise how much Japanese I can speak after only a short period of time, but these people are usually students who don't have that "foreigners can never learn Japanese" attitude, so I don't go telling them how easy it really is. I'm hoping by this time next year I can do fully functional Japanese conversation plus be able to write 1500 + kanji, then say to the next dolt who tells me that it takes 10 years that I've been studying it for under two.

Gaijinian
Oct 11, 2005, 12:42
it takes 10 years...
That figure assumes your in the West, not Japan, you know. Studying in Japan is much different; poor old Gaijinian can say that for sure...

GaijinPunch
Oct 11, 2005, 15:07
Studying in Japan is much different; poor old Gaijinian can say that for sure...

10 years to learn basic Japanese? I don't think so. I could at least string sentences together, have a really lame conversation, get directions, etc. after only 3 years of studying outside of Japan. The tester? I made it from Narita to Shizuoka all on local trains (long story, for personal stories sometimes). I would say that was far beyond basic.

Mike Cash
Oct 11, 2005, 18:45
My goal when I started out was "reasonable fluency in 10 years".

Maciamo
Oct 11, 2005, 23:42
it takes 10 years...
That figure assumes your in the West, not Japan, you know. Studying in Japan is much different; poor old Gaijinian can say that for sure...

It depends on people's abilities and experience in learning languages. I have notcied that the more languages one learns and the fastest it becomes to learn a new one, slightly contradicting the common idea that languages are easier to learn the younger one is.

My experience with Japanese; I didn't know any Japanese until about 1 month before coming to Japan. I learnt the basic greetings and basic grammar by myself before coming, then studied 5 months in a language school in Tokyo, the all by myself. I was able to understand most daily conversation and speak a bit after 1 year and became reasonably fluent after 2 years. Now (after 4 years) when I am not tired, I can understand most of a movie or what's on TV, read some manga with little help of my dictionary. This is all with little motivation to study. I actually haven't opened a book or really studied in the last 2 years. So, had I had more motivation and more need to use Japanese for business, I could have reach my current level (between JLPT2 and JLPT1) within 2 years.


One dry boring girl said to me once, in a room full of other students, "it will take you 10 years to learn beginner Japanese". I was new to the country so I was like "10 years?!?!". You could tell she was one of those nationalistic, WWII denying types.

Does that mean that nationalist are so stupid that it takes them 10 years to learn the basics in a foreign language while living in the country ? That's always how I feel when someone asks me if I have lived in Japan for "over 10 years" when they try to address me in English and I answer in Japanese. Two of the policemen who stopped me on my bicycle (including the one who stopped me with his police car during day time as if he was chasing me), also asked me the same question. In those 2 cases, I could tell they had the IQ of a chimpanzee though.

Maciamo
Oct 11, 2005, 23:58
I still wonder, I read most of your post and it doesn't seem like there has been a instant where a japanese person didn't make the assumption that you were from America.

Really ? I never said that. I said that most Japanese assume that Westerners are American, but few will actually say it aloud. As a teacher, the students all know where I am from before meeting me first, or I tell them at the first time we meet. What is amazing is that some of them still manage to keep the image "Westerner = American" after that, although there is little in me that fits the stereotype of the "typical American". I don't speak loud (sometimes too low), I hardly ever eat fastfood and never drink soft drinks, I don't wear very casual clothes, I am not Christian... But people who haven't been introduced to me very often ask me if I am American, as it is fixed in Japanese mind that someone with blue eyes must be American.


You're a teacher, right? Have you ever gave lectures on cultural differences about Europe? I know you teach English and Italian, and teaching another language doesn't just mean learning about the language, it also means learning about the people who speak it. :p I'm just curious, but I was wondering, what are you doing to help change the way some japanese people think about the West? :-)

I do my best to tell all my students about cultural differences between European countries, or Europe and America. But it's not what is going to change the mainstream.

Maciamo
Oct 12, 2005, 00:06
Lived in Japan for a total of about 9 months now, never once heard the word "gaijin" uttered like Maciamo says.

Well, maybe you have hearing problems or live in a remote area of the Japanese Alps in a small isolated cottage ? There is hardly a day when I don't hear Japanese people say "gaijin", although it's mostly when they are talking about "gaijin" in general, not me in particular. Just watch variety programmes on TV, they will probably talk about "gaijn" at least once (especially if there is a foreign guest or they are talking about strange things happening in other countries). I also don't count the number of bars that have the name "gaijin" in it. Even some NOVA ads advertise the schools as English being taught by "gaijin" (rather than the more appropriate "native speaker" in that case).

Bucko
Oct 12, 2005, 00:32
Well, maybe you have hearing problems or live in a remote area of the Japanese Alps in a small isolated cottage ? There is hardly a day when I don't hear Japanese people say "gaijin", although it's mostly when they are talking about "gaijin" in general, not me in particular. Just watch variety programmes on TV, they will probably talk about "gaijn" at least once (especially if there is a foreign guest or they are talking about strange things happening in other countries). I also don't count the number of bars that have the name "gaijin" in it. Even some NOVA ads advertise the schools as English being taught by "gaijin" (rather than the more appropriate "native speaker" in that case).

Actually I live in the heart of Osaka. When you mentioned hearing "gaijin this gaijin that" before I thought you were talking about people actually talking about you while you were in their presence (i.e. standing on a train, some old women seeing you and talking about how dangerous you probably are). So yeah I see and hear gaijin around the place, but I've never heard myself being talked about on a train or in public.

Bucko
Oct 12, 2005, 00:51
Here's what happened to me today. Might seem stupid but it REALLY bugged me. I needed to catch a train from a big station that I was unfamiliar with so I said to the station employee:

すみませんが、梅田駅行きは何番線ですか (excuse me, what's the track number for the Umeda bound?)

The station employee then fumbled around and managed to mumble out "tracku 3, semi express". Then I said 何時に発ちますか (at what time does it depart?) then he fumbled around some more and tried to say "3:24pm" in English but failed completely. I just looked at him blankly thinking why doesn't he just say it in Japanese??? Then he went and got his notepad out and wrote "3:24" on that. WTF???

I'm going to say 英語分からない to the next person that does this. After I got off the train I went and got something to eat and was ready to say it to the counter girl there but, bless her, she spoke in only Japanese.

Gaijinian
Oct 12, 2005, 05:16
Just to clear it up (maybe your all thinking I meant 10 years for me-- but look at my age), it took me about 3 years to get to where I am now. However, someone should be fluent after a few months in Japan, I'm sure...

Mike Cash
Oct 12, 2005, 06:33
日本人は“外人”にだまして会話しないで日本語が出来 ていないと決めておくなんて胡麻菓子(New favorite word)だ!

What are you trying to say here?

GaijinPunch
Oct 12, 2005, 08:06
Just to clear it up (maybe your all thinking I meant 10 years for me-- but look at my age), it took me about 3 years to get to where I am now.

Well, we don't really know how well you speak Japanese. Even studying constantly in Japan, a few months isn't going to make you even close to fluent... or even proficient unless you've had a few years behind you already.

Elizabeth
Oct 12, 2005, 08:08
What are you trying to say here?
I didn't understand either, but didn't want to say so publicly.... :p

Elizabeth
Oct 12, 2005, 08:11
Here's what happened to me today. Might seem stupid but it REALLY bugged me. I needed to catch a train from a big station that I was unfamiliar with so I said to the station employee:

すみませんが、梅田駅行きは何番線ですか (excuse me, what's the track number for the Umeda bound?)

The station employee then fumbled around and managed to mumble out "tracku 3, semi express". Then I said 何時に発ちますか (at what time does it depart?) then he fumbled around some more and tried to say "3:24pm" in English but failed completely. I just looked at him blankly thinking why doesn't he just say it in Japanese??? Then he went and got his notepad out and wrote "3:24" on that. WTF???

I'm going to say 英語分からない to the next person that does this. After I got off the train I went and got something to eat and was ready to say it to the counter girl there but, bless her, she spoke in only Japanese.
What time does it leave is usually "Nanji ni demasuka?" .. but don't feel singled out. I still have the same thing happen maybe 10-15% of the time every few months that I go back, either on their notepad or calculator. :bluush: Although I feel it's more effective to repeat it back in Japanese and hope they eventually catch on rather than try to fake not understanding English.

Maciamo
Oct 12, 2005, 09:44
So yeah I see and hear gaijin around the place, but I've never heard myself being talked about on a train or in public.

But how good is your Japanese now, and how carefully do you listen to what people say around you ? They rarely shout it (except children or drunkards), so if you are not aware of it you'll miss it. I told a friend about it, who also hadn't noticed (new to Japan), and just a few days later he heard a few times people saying "gaijin" while staring at him as he walked by. I tend to observe a lot and be quite aware of my environement, so maybe that's why I came to realise it quicker, and hear it more often. Try to travel outside the center of Osaka or other big cities too. Even in the suburbs, it's more likely to happen.

Maciamo
Oct 12, 2005, 10:02
すみませんが、梅田駅行きは何番線ですか (excuse me, what's the track number for the Umeda bound?)

The station employee then fumbled around and managed to mumble out "tracku 3, semi express". Then I said 何時に発ちますか (at what time does it depart?) then he fumbled around some more and tried to say "3:24pm" in English but failed completely. I just looked at him blankly thinking why doesn't he just say it in Japanese??? Then he went and got his notepad out and wrote "3:24" on that. WTF???

This has happened to me dozens and dozens (maybe hundreds) of times. Yet, I noticed that it was more likely to happen in the greater Tokyo and Kansai. When I was travelling in places like Kyushu or Hokkaido, it never happened to me. When checking in in the hotel there, I adressed the staff directly in Japanese, and they always replied in Japanese except in Hiroshima and Kyoto (experienced that twice in Kyoto). I was surprised in Sapporo that a JR staff came to me and asked directly in Japanese ご案内しましょうか? (can I help you ?) when I was looking at the train map (it took a bit long as I was admiring the strange place names in Hokkaido and looking what kanji they used for them).

In shops, station or any other place in Tokyo, over half of the time they would try to address me in English first, or if I ask them something in Japanese, either try to reply in English or, for older people in small privately-owned shitamchi shops, say "No English" or make gestures. Interestingly, this "No English" or gestures response has only happened to me in Tokyo (mostly in shitamachi). Maybe that's because I have only travelled briefly to other places and never lived there ? :? They also tend to reply to me in English when I am alone, but rarely when I am with my wife or other Japanese (or even when I guide my family around when they come to Japan).


I'm going to say 英語分からない to the next person that does this. After I got off the train I went and got something to eat and was ready to say it to the counter girl there but, bless her, she spoke in only Japanese.

I think the same way. But I have tried a few times saying it and the Japanese person I was talking to was so surprised they didn't know what to do. One guy even said "shouganai ne" (well, what can we do then ?) and walked away. Although I said that in Japanese and talked to him in Japanese and he understand both very well, why would he think that all communication was futile because I said I didn't speak English ? :mad:

Gaijinian
Oct 12, 2005, 11:12
日本人は“外人”にだまして会話しないで日本語が出来 ていないと決めておくなんて胡麻菓子(New favorite word)だ!

Hmm...
日本人は、ガイジンに騙して(『こんな使用なんて合っ てないんだかもしれない』)会う前、突然「日本人じゃ ないから日本語が出来ない」って決めるのが胡麻菓子( わかる、それ?面白い言葉ですよ)だ。
I was just trying out some new vocab, even though I knew it made little sense. When I hear a new word or two, I try to use it/them-- just gave it a (pathetic) shot...
哀れな言い方だったので、茶化して(Again, new word)いいヨ。笑。 :relief:

Elizabeth
Oct 12, 2005, 13:51
せっかく書き直してもらったのですが、それでもやっぱ り意味がわからないですね。
もう一度考えて違う言い方を考えてくれますか?

多分、騙すの使い方が違うのじゃないでしょうか?どう いう意味で「騙す」を使ったのですか?
「黙る」ということのかな?

Mikawa Ossan
Oct 12, 2005, 20:42
I, too, have had the experience of asking a JR for a map once and a timetable at another time in Japanese and was given the English version. Which is fine, but I find that the Japanese train system is much easier to understand in Japanese, so I asked for the regular Japanese version. I was unbelievably told, "We`re all out of timetables in Japanese." Of course I didn't believe him, but I figured it wasn't worth a fight.

So yes, this happens quite a bit at train stations. I don't get such treatment very often anymore, but then again, I rarely ask JR employees for even the time of day anymore. You just have to get used to this. It will not change for you.

As far as people talking about you, calling you a gaijin amonst themselves, yes it happens. But what's the big deal? I have noticed that they often will mention it, but then it just passes. People often make only as much of the fact that you are a gainjin as you yourself do, in my experience.

I myself am guilty of the same thing. I talk about gaijin, or I myself will mention in passing, "A, gaijin da". But it ends there.

Complaining about it will not solve anything. I think that the more you put up a fuss about it, the more you reinforce people's sometimes negative stereotypes of "foreigners".

Personally, I accept that I am different from society at large and I expect that society's default treatment of me will be somewhat different. If I want society to treat me equally with everyone else, I think that the onus is on me to show that I am deserving of such treatment. Japanese society is under no obligation to treat me, a foreigner, exactly the same as another Japanese native. That puts the burden on me, and I accept that burden, as onerous as it may be at times.

If you're not willing to accept that burden, then IMHO you have no business complaining about minor inconveniences you face here.

Elizabeth
Oct 12, 2005, 21:28
I was surprised in Sapporo that a JR staff came to me and asked directly in Japanese ご案内しましょうか? (can I help you ?) when I was looking at the train map (it took a bit long as I was admiring the strange place names in Hokkaido and looking what kanji they used for them).
The only time I can recall being addressed in Japanese at a station was by a older woman standing nearby on a platform at Matsumoto who asked "並んでいますか” in a very normal conversational tone. I was too shocked to say anything but そうです。to which she didn't believe and proceeded to gesture me up a step up for all the three or four of us waiting to be able to line up in proper formation. :p

Index
Oct 12, 2005, 22:03
The only time I can recall being addressed in Japanese at a station was by a older woman standing nearby on a platform at Matsumoto who asked "並んでいますか” in a very normal conversational tone. I was too shocked to say anything but そうです。to which she didn't believe and proceeded to gesture me up a step up for all the three or four of us waiting to be able to line up in proper formation. :p

I must say I have not had the experience often either. One particularly surprising time was when an older Japanese man asked me for directions (in Japanese) at a packed Takananobaba JR station though. I was so surprised I just stared at him blankly...

Elizabeth
Oct 12, 2005, 22:31
I must say I have not had the experience often either. One particularly surprising time was when an older Japanese man asked me for directions (in Japanese) at a packed Takananobaba JR station though. I was so surprised I just stared at him blankly...
Wow, that is bizarre....it reminds me of an instance in a Tokyo restaurant where the check-out guy apparently didn't recognize me as non-Asian (I don't look it at all) and started a conversation by asking whether I was parked in the back lot, something about used cars for sale there, my Japanese was much worse then, but thankfully an incredulous fellow staff soon intervened to let him know who he was talking with, in both English and Japanese....:bluush: :p

Maciamo
Oct 12, 2005, 22:51
As far as people talking about you, calling you a gaijin amonst themselves, yes it happens. But what's the big deal? I have noticed that they often will mention it, but then it just passes. People often make only as much of the fact that you are a gainjin as you yourself do, in my experience.
...
Complaining about it will not solve anything. I think that the more you put up a fuss about it, the more you reinforce people's sometimes negative stereotypes of "foreigners".

So, am I allowed to call the Japanese "naijin" (内人, insiders/natives) to stay coherent with the Japanese dualism of uchi (inside) and soto (outside) ? Next time a salesman comes and ring to my door and he says "ah, gaijin da!" when I open the door (this has happened to me 3 times, among about 10 sales people that came), I will reply "ah, naijin da!". :-) This way, if he is shocked or find my utterance inappropriate, we will be even. I suspect that the guy won't even understand what I mean by "naijin" and won't think about it (wondering about the meaning of words is not something the Japanese normally do). I would be fun with a group of "gaijin" to start talking about the "naijin", giggle as me mention it at the bewilderment of locals. Everytime a lift/elevator door opens and some Japanese are inside, I will say "oh, naijin da!" and ask them "Nihonjin desu ka ? Watashi no nihongo heta desu yo." and laugh aloud alone. This way maybe they will understand how I feel when they tell "gaijin" the same in reverse.

The only thing we can't do as gaijin talking about naijin is grouping all countries in the world under the "naijin" term to make stereotypes and misconceptions all the more outrageous. I could say "oo, these naijin you know, they eat natto every morning !". But it doesn't sound as bad as "oh, these gaijin, they all eat hamburgers" - if gaijin meant "American", there would be at least a bit of truth in it, but as a gaijin could as well be Indian, Chinese, Ghanan, Italian or Swedish, only the Japanese have the priviledge of making such gross overgeneralisation on a world scale.


If you're not willing to accept that burden, then IMHO you have no business complaining about minor inconveniences you face here.

But is it fair that they do things we can't do to them in Japan ? (see above) Even outside Japan, when Japanese people come to Europe, we don't call them "gaijin" or foreigner in the country's language. We don't look all surprise and say "oh, a gaijin" when a Japanese appears in the lift/elevator. We don't try to speak broken Japanese they don't understand when they address us in the local language. We don't assume that they cannot eat the local food or cannot use some utensils because they are Japanese. I don't understand how most Westerners want to be tolerant of such behaviour while staying in Japan, using for argument that we live in their country and should do as they like, but if somebody were to behave like that with Japanese tourists or residents in a Western country, he/she would be labelled as a racist for making fun of them or assume they can't do things every human being can do.

Honestly, what would you think of a French person (just an example) who would ask Japanese residents in France whether they can eat "fois gras" and if met by a positive answer, take a surprised expression and say "oh, really, you can eat fois gras ? Wow ! you must be French ! I thought the Japanese couldn't eat fois gras." Then, the same with cheese, bread, or whatever with most of the typically French dishes at a meal. First that would be boring, but the person would be thought of as seriously deranged or bizarrely prejudiced.

Let say that same Japanese person has lived for 5 years in France and speaks French quite fluently. Everytime he/she asks something in a shop, station, etc. the local French people reply in (broken) English or give the person a explanation leaflet/map/timetable in English. Don't forget that this is France, and the Japanese person speaks French to them. Assuming that a Japanese speaks English is not much better than assuming that a French or Italian person speaks English. Almost as many don't (or not fluently at least) in any of the three countries. So, that Japanese person would certainly get frustrated after a while. Living in France and trying hard to learn French, it must be annoying when the locals reply to you in English seeing you are Asian, regardless of how good your French is. It's even more bothering if one does not speak English, or less well than French in this case. Not being a native English speaker, regardless of my English skills, I find it as bothering when I address someone in Japanese and the Japanese all assume that I speak English and reply in English (or say they can't speak English), just because I am Caucasian.

What they difference between being a Japanese who can speak French in France, or a French speaker who can speak Japanese in Japan ? Local people shouldn't behave differently. Yet, I can tell you that nobody in France (or Belgium, Germany, Italy or whatever) will reply to you in (broken or good) English if you address them in their language with a reasonably good level (i.e. not reading from a phrasebook, but making comprehensible sentences on your own). So why do the Japanese feel they have to right to hurt foreigner's feelings and pride by basically feigning not to understand your Japanese well enough so that English is the only solution left to communicate, however poor theirs is ? How could they be so careless about other people's feelings ?

Ironic for a country so concerned with "omoiyari" that people should lack so much what I call "kangaeyari". Omoiyari is try to feel how another would like you to do for them (e.g. offering them a present on their birthday). Kangaeyari is actually reflecting (not just feeling based on one's own emotions) about how to achieve that. In this case, having "kangaeyari" means understanding that 1) somebody who makes efforts to speak the local language does not wish to be talked to in another language, 2) not everybody may speak this other language, so there is no point assuming that the foreigner can if he/she is addressing you in your language. My entire article Things Japanese people should not say to Westerners (http://www.wa-pedia.com/culture/what_japanese_should_not_say_to_foreigners.shtml) is based on this typical Japanese lack of "kangaeyari" (a neologism of mine).

Mikawa Ossan
Oct 12, 2005, 23:17
Well then, why is it that you seem to have so many problems and I seem to have so few?

I can only think of it as being a matter of attitude. :p

Maciamo
Oct 12, 2005, 23:35
Well then, why is it that you seem to have so many problems and I seem to have so few?
I can only think of it as being a matter of attitude.

Yeah, I have to invent problems to try to "fit in" within the group. :argue: No, just kidding (or, am I ? I'll have to scrutinize my subconscious :stan: ).

Why don't you think it's a problem that the naijin have such a different attitude toward foreigners ? They are breaking the world harmony :bawling:

(I think I am getting a bit tired...)

pipokun
Oct 12, 2005, 23:40
Just thought Maciamo wanted to invite more Japanese, trolls or not, with his critical opinions here, but I suppose I was wrong. If he really wants to educate them, I'd start my threads in "一般的なフォーラム" here...

Just a quick question, what do you do for your shitamachi community to "fit in"?

Maciamo
Oct 12, 2005, 23:57
Just a quick question, what do you do for your shitamachi community to "fit in"?

I participated to the local matsuri everytime it was held. I greet my neighbours (but rarely get more than a mumbled reply as most people are over 60 and are not well disposed toward foreigners). I learnt about the history of the neighbourhood (taught my wife about it, although she's always lived there). What could I do more that a normal citizen usually does ? What could I do if people don't even want to say "hello" ?

pipokun
Oct 13, 2005, 00:42
I participated to the local matsuri everytime it was held. I greet my neighbours (but rarely get more than a mumbled reply as most people are over 60 and are not well disposed toward foreigners). I learnt about the history of the neighbourhood (taught my wife about it, although she's always lived there). What could I do more that a normal citizen usually does ? What could I do if people don't even want to say "hello" ?

you're just unlucky not to have any internationl friendship loving ochan/obachan there.
the smallest town I've ever lived was the town with its 40,000 population. for me, it is a rather small one, though some of you may think it's big.
honestly it was a bit surprised to see people like i said above.

Elizabeth
Oct 13, 2005, 03:00
Yeah, I have to invent problems to try to "fit in" within the group. :argue: No, just kidding (or, am I ? I'll have to scrutinize my subconscious :stan: ).

Why don't you think it's a problem that the naijin have such a different attitude toward foreigners ? They are breaking the world harmony :bawling:

(I think I am getting a bit tired...)
I don't have an answer any more than anyone else here, so you have tried talking about this with them I'm sure....what has the general response been ?

Besides walking around buried in a Japanese newspaper or book never to be mistaken for an illiterate gaijin.... :bluush:

Gaijinian
Oct 13, 2005, 07:09
せっかく書き直してもらったのですが、それでもやっぱ り意味がわからないですね。
もう一度考えて違う言い方を考えてくれますか?

多分、騙すの使い方が違うのじゃないでしょうか?どう いう意味で「騙す」を使ったのですか?
「黙る」ということのかな?

前の使用には、「騙す」は困っているんですね・・・。
でも、新しく学んで(いや、使い方、まだまだ学んでな いらしいw)、使ってみようと思って・・・。

こうなっていたらどうかな?
『日本人が、目知らぬGAIJINに会って、当然日本語が出 来ないと決するなんてうざい(気がちょっと違っている のに)ですね。』

__

Another experience: I was on the phone, and the woman was trying to explain something to me-- I told her I understood... But she seemed not to believe me. :?
Anyway, after trying to explain for a while, she finally said 英語できなくてツライわ!
It was annoying...

Maciamo
Oct 13, 2005, 08:29
Besides walking around buried in a Japanese newspaper or book never to be mistaken for an illiterate gaijin.... :bluush:

Good idea ! I never thought about it because I don't usually read while walking (a bit dangerous in Tokyo). But I could try in the neighbourhood, just to show them I can read Japanese. :cool:

Maciamo
Oct 13, 2005, 09:56
Btw, I was checking Google to see if somebody else had also come up with the term "naijin" and I have found an article in the Japan Times about this : You've earned it: lifetime 'gaijin' status! (http://search.japantimes.co.jp/print/features/life2005/fl20050212cz.htm)


After an extended stay in Japan, does one ever cease to regard oneself as a "gaijin" (foreigner)?
...
When I first came to Japan, I was not happy with the status of "gaikokujin" and, like many naive foreigners before me, wanted only one thing: to become Japanese! I wanted to become what I call a "naikokujin." I shunned the bed for a futon, chose a tatami-style apartment over one with chairs and furniture, and vowed to sit in the "seiza" position no matter how blue my face turned. I would live only Japanese style!

I think that summarises well how many (most of the ?) Westerners who come and live in Japan for the country itself (not for their job) think and behave when they first come.


Although I was still a gaijin, my Japanese "naijin" friends seemed more than happy to help me make my miraculous transformation. I envisioned before and after photos: Before -- rude gaijin; after -- polite, cultured, self-effacing naijin with blonde hair.

This may be true for some people, but in my case, I found the Japanese to be only superficially polite, rather selfish, lacking "kangaeyari" and often bad mannered (http://www.wa-pedia.com/forum/showthread.php?t=9224) (pushing in trains, bad street manners (http://www.wa-pedia.com/forum/showthread.php?t=12205)...). Of course, that is based on my experience in Tokyo (but that's still where 28% of the Japanese live or commute to).


Making my "inkan" in Japanese. While most foreigners have their personal stamps made in katakana, reflecting their gaijinness, my naijin coworkers were eager to translate my name into kanji characters.

Most foreigners ? Those who come on business maybe, but I and many other Westerners have met have their hanko in kanji. It's part of the cultural experience.


To this day, when Japanese see my stamp, they are completely baffled and cannot even begin to read it. After so many embarrassing encounters with my uniquely stamped legal documents at the bank and post office, I changed my inkan to a gaijin-friendly katakana one.

Haha, never had any problem with mine. :p Fortunately, my(first) name is pretty easy to render in kanji.


Speaking like Japanese royalty. A naijin friend of mine, while teaching me Japanese, taught me to say "go-kigen yo" instead of "konnichi wa" for "hello." This, she said, was the Japanese used by the royal family, and if I used it I would be highly regarded among regular naijin and that this would prove that I was upper class.

I also used such expressions (e.g. "go shimpai naku") in my first year in Japan, but some Japanese just laughed when they heared me speak like that. :okashii"

GaijinPunch
Oct 13, 2005, 10:34
One particularly surprising time was when an older Japanese man asked me for directions (in Japanese) at a packed Takananobaba JR station though.

I can beat that. I was asked in Japanese to take a group photo... in Hawaii! The kicker was he didn't even point to the camera or hold it up or anything. It was a friends wedding... the bride was Japanese, so a large portion of the guests were Japanese. Why he didn't ask them, I'll never know. This was the bride's father, who got obscenely tanked later in the evening.

meverieJp
Oct 13, 2005, 18:31
日本語の方が早いので、日本語で書かせてください。

ロジカルでない日本人のmythに対しての、お怒りはごも っともです。
私も多少覚えが るので、それぞれにコメントさせてく ださい。
ここでの「外国人」は主に欧米人を指します。

gaijin cannot speak Japanese?:85%同意します。ただ、日本に数年いなが 轣A日本語を使わなくていい環境にいるために、覚えよ 、としない外国人がいるのも要因だという気がします。 i例:一部のニセ出稼ぎ英会話"教師"-->例:日本に数年もいて、3〜4歳児レベルの日本語。)
それから、白人は見てくれからして明らかに「ガイジン 」なので、その絶対数の少なさや、西欧への漠然とした 強い憧れから、かなり特異にみられてるのが一番の原因 だと思います。恐らく「きむたく」と同じ扱いで、彼ら の中で、イメージでき がってるため、何を言っても無駄です。

chopsticks:100%同意です。以前、同じ事をぼやいて 「たポーランド人がいましたが、何年も日本にいるならねぇ。。

blood type:私も時々「毎回よく飽きもせず、ホステスみたい な話をするなぁ」とは思いますが、それぐらいしか、話 の切り出し方を思いつかないんじゃないですかね。話の ネタがないというか、挨拶代わりというか。ただ、A型 AO型の割合についての勘違いは、なんとも言えません。 私は、自分の血液型を知らない人が多くて、正確に統計 取れていないと思ってました。正確な統計が るなら、 ぜひ教えて欲しいです。(ソースも)
(血液型のアイデアは、「血液型占い」から発祥してる と思うので、これを撲滅するには占い産業からつぶすし かない気がします。good luck)

Japan has 4 seasons:私は、これを何らかの広告で見たと思います B「ナンじゃこりゃ。」と思いましたが、広告には良く る話なので、取り合いませんでした。

いわゆる英会話学校等も、欧米人の存在を祀り上げて、 外国人差別を助長してると思いますよ。外国人を「憧れ の雲の上の存在」のままにしておいた方が儲かりますし ね。
ただ、これを無くすと、副作用として、その恩恵を受け ているニセ英語教師は、仕事がなくなり、日本語が分ら ないフリをして故意にキセルをしたり、交通違反キップ を見逃されたりしている外国人も都合が悪くなると思い ますよ。

眞茶摸さんが日本人に会ってるほど、西洋人に会ってい ないと思いますが、私も、似たような感じで逆に西洋人 に屈辱されたことが りますので、この場を借りてちょ っと、言わせてもらうと:

1) 私が、居酒屋で馬刺しを食べたとき、オーストラリア人、イギリス人、カナダ人、アメリカ人、揃 って、苦虫をつぶしたような顔をされた。隣に座ってい たオーストラリア人は、いすを移動して私から離れ、イギリス 人は、私が食べてるところの写真まで取っていた。-->私は野蛮人ですか?

2) 持ち帰りすしを買おうとしたら、嫌そうな顔をしたので 、「好きじゃないの?」と言ったら、「生魚なんか食べ られないよ。バクテリアがいっぱいて」と言われた。-->無菌室育ちですか?

3)「いつか鯨肉を食べてみたいなぁ」と言ったら、冷た い顔で睨まれた。-->私が野蛮人だからですか?

‥と、ひとつひとつ取り上げてたら限がないですが、い ずれの場合も、そのことに慣れてない、または無知だか ら起ることだと言う点では同じだと思います(mythと関 係ないかもしれませんが、根っこは似たようなもの)
些細な事でピーピー騒ぐのが面白いので、馬刺しなど、わざと美味しそうに 食べてやりました :blush:

単純に、そのときに、それを不愉快に思っている事を、 本人に言ったらどうでしょう?

Mike Cash
Oct 13, 2005, 19:09
Hmm...
日本人は、ガイジンに騙して(『こんな使用なんて合っ てないんだかもしれない』)会う前、突然「日本人じゃ ないから日本語が出来ない」って決めるのが胡麻菓子( わかる、それ?面白い言葉ですよ)だ。
I was just trying out some new vocab, even though I knew it made little sense. When I hear a new word or two, I try to use it/them-- just gave it a (pathetic) shot...
哀れな言い方だったので、茶化して(Again, new word)いいヨ。笑。 :relief:

Back off on vocab acquisition for a bit and go back and review grammar and sentence structure again. You're getting ahead of yourself.

Mike Cash
Oct 13, 2005, 19:12
Well then, why is it that you seem to have so many problems and I seem to have so few?

I can only think of it as being a matter of attitude. :p

It's also part and parcel of the nature of work that he does. The sooner he gets out of it, the better off he'll be.

Gaijinian
Oct 13, 2005, 20:52
Back off on vocab acquisition for a bit and go back and review grammar and sentence structure again. You're getting ahead of yourself.
助言 りがとう。解ってます。サッキ、掲示しない方が 良かったですね。 :blush:

普通ならそんなに・・・不思議の話し方、使いません。
が、間違えていても、新しく学んだ単語をすぐ使ってみ たら、ずっと覚えさせるらしいんですよ。

常に日本語を単純化すべきだと言われますね。聞いたら どうかな・・・笑。

Mike Cash
Oct 13, 2005, 21:11
I agree that it is a good thing to put new vocab items to use as soon as you can.
But I think you may have rushed through some grammar stuff that would definitely benefit from a careful review. Given your age and Japanese learning situation, you do amazingly well and I admire your efforts and accomplishments. But consider stopping moving forward for a bit and do a little backtracking.

Maciamo
Oct 13, 2005, 21:52
ここでの「外国人」は主に欧米人を指します。

主に欧米人なら’「外国人」の代わりに「欧米人」を使 って、褒めたい。一般の日本人には欧米人だけを思って もただ「外人」という言葉を使う。 :okashii:


私は、自分の血液型を知らない人が多くて、正確に統計 取れていないと思ってました。正確な統計が るなら、 ぜひ教えて欲しいです。(ソースも)

統計なら簡単にウェッブで見付けられます。例えば、こ のサイト (http://www.bloodbook.com/world-abo.html)にはエスニックグループずつの血液型率が ります。かなり面白い。一番AB率 が高いのはアイヌ人です(18%)。西欧州人の中には 、ドイツ、オーストリア、スイス、デンマーク、 スウェーデン、 ノルウェー、フランス、スペイン、ポルトガルのほうが、A型が一 ヤ多い、その次はO型です。オランダ、ベルギー、イギリス、アイルランドとイタリア、逆に一番多いい のはO型、その後A型.

東アジア人、東欧州人の血液型、とても似ています。A ^、O型とB型、すべて同じくぐらい多い。西ヨーロッパと白人のアメリカ人の少ないB型が、東ヨーロッパ、トルコ、アラブの国々、ロシア、中国、韓国、 日本、べトナム、タイとか、B型は20%から30%ま ナの率です。

ほかのアジア人と違って、インド人はO型とB型だけ多い (A型が少ない)。東アジア人に遺伝子的に関連してい 驍フ北米土人はほとんど100%O型かほとんど100% A型。B型はほとんどの北米土人の中にはまったくいない 。

これを見ても、同じ血液型のグループの国々は文化と考え方ぜんぜん違う。イタリア人とイ ギリス人はぜんぜん似ていないのに統計は似ている。ロ シア人、アラブ人、中国人と日本人も、似ていないのに 、が血液型率が似ている。オランダ人と北欧人は性格、 文化、言語と遺伝子はとても似ているのに統計が違う。



(血液型のアイデアは、「血液型占い」から発祥してる と思うので、これを撲滅するには占い産業からつぶすし かない気がします。good luck)

占いは論理的な(ロジカル)ことではない。けれど、い ろんな占い(例えば動物占い、血液型占いなど)を信じ るか興味が る日本人は非常に多いと思います。僕の国 ならほとんど10年代の女の子しか信じない。それは「多 くの日本人は論理的ではない」と僕が言ったの理由の一 つです。



1) 私が、居酒屋で馬刺しを食べたとき、オーストラリア人、イギリス人、カナダ人、アメリカ人、揃 って、苦虫をつぶしたような顔をされた。隣に座ってい たオーストラリア人は、いすを移動して私から離れ、イギリス 人は、私が食べてるところの写真まで取っていた。-->私は野蛮人ですか?

2) 持ち帰りすしを買おうとしたら、嫌そうな顔をしたので 、「好きじゃないの?」と言ったら、「生魚なんか食べ られないよ。バクテリアがいっぱいて」と言われた。-->無菌室育ちですか?

3)「いつか鯨肉を食べてみたいなぁ」と言ったら、冷た い顔で睨まれた。-->私が野蛮人だからですか?

多くの欧米人は、特別に英語系のほうは、動物 利に気 にする人が多い。ベジタリアンの人だんだん多くなって くる。特別にイギリスで。それ以上、鯨、イルカと馬は 特別な「頭いい、人間の友の動物」と思う人が多い。日 本人も犬か猫を食べたい。同じ考え方。犬と猫より、鯨 か馬のほうが頭いい動物です。僕は まり気にしないけ どね。豚と牛も、犬か猫より脳が大きくて、頭がいいからね。そう思ったら、もうすべ ての肉食べない。

生魚について、その人々の反応良くわからない。このサ イトの調査の結果は「寿司か刺身」、欧米人にとって一 番好きな日本料理だから。嫌い人もいるけど、寿司が嫌 い日本人と同じく、例外だと思います。

Elizabeth
Oct 13, 2005, 22:16
助言 りがとう。解ってます。サッキ、掲示しない方が 良かったですね。 :blush:

普通ならそんなに・・・不思議の話し方、使いません。
が、間違えていても、新しく学んだ単語をすぐ使ってみ たら、ずっと覚えさせるらしいんですよ。

常に日本語を単純化すべきだと言われますね。聞いたら どうかな・・・笑。
批判したわけではないですね。
私が使っている言葉は、日本人同士の日常会話では自然 に
使われていないかもしれないだと思います。
けれでも、いつも日本人、Gaijiniansan
の皆さんは分かって下さるようで、私は感動します。 :bow:

でも、「騙す」の投稿はいくら読んでも、
全体として意味が理解できません。 :sorry:
多分とても面白いですよね。
英語でお願いします。

pipokun
Oct 13, 2005, 22:38
つ "一般的なフォーラム (http://www.wa-pedia.com/forum/forumdisplay.php?f=103)"

Gaijinian
Oct 13, 2005, 23:16
批判したわけではないですね。
私が使っている言葉は、日本人同士の日常会話では自然 に
使われていないかもしれないだと思います。
けれでも、いつも日本人、Gaijiniansan
の皆さんは分かって下さるようで、私は感動します。 :bow:

でも、「騙す」の投稿はいくら読んでも、
全体として意味が理解できません。 :sorry:
多分とても面白いですよね。
英語でお願いします。

Japanese cheat "gaijin" by assuming they cannot speak Japanese without talking to them, it's "gomakashi!"
(前の翻訳:)日本人が外人に騙して会話しないで日本 語ができないと決するなんて胡麻菓子だ!
話題に合っていて、さ、使ってみようと思いました。


英語を読んだら、私の文はやっぱり間違っているんです が、多分、なぜそんなに書いたのか理解できるのかもし れませんね。

別に、MIKEYCASHが言った通り、私の日本語の文法はと チても困っていて、批判が必要 り、復習しなければな 閧ワせんね。 :relief:

pipokun
Oct 13, 2005, 23:20
Just wondering who abuses the word "gaijin"...

Elizabeth
Oct 14, 2005, 00:09
批判したわけではないですね。
私が使っている言葉は、日本人同士の日常会話では自然 に
使われていないかもしれないだと思います。
けれでも、いつも日本人、Gaijiniansan
の皆さんは分かって下さるようで、私は感動します。 :bow:

でも、「騙す」の投稿はいくら読んでも、
全体として意味が理解できません。 :sorry:
多分とても面白いですよね。
英語でお願いします。
OK, back to regularly scheduled English. :sorry:

I asked a J-friend about the earlier post and as you said, Gaijiniansan, she got it is interesting when a Japanese person decides a foreigner cannot speak Japanese from seeing them but before they actually converse.
:bluush:

多分彼が言いたかったのは 「日本人は、外人と見ると 、会話もせずに日本語が出来ないと決め付けるのは、お かしい」ということでしょね?

Gaijinian
Oct 14, 2005, 06:00
See, talk, or just think of a gaijin in general.
I don't know if I would say "interesting," but okashii seems OK.


多分彼が言いたかったのは 「日本人は、外人と見ると 、会話もせずに日本語が出来ないと決め付けるのは、お かしい」ということでしょね?
そうですね・・・。

meverieJp
Oct 14, 2005, 09:26
占いは論理的な(ロジカル)ことではない。けれど、い ろんな占い(例えば動物占い、血液型占いなど)を信じ るか興味が る日本人は非常に多いと思います。僕の国 ならほとんど10年代の女の子しか信じない。それは「多 くの日本人は論理的ではない」と僕が言ったの理由の一 つです。
毎月、占いに10万円以上注ぎ込んでいる人もいるようで すので、この産業を撲滅しようとしたら、大仕事になる と思います。まず数人単位ではできませんね。人気占い 師が出演するTV番組も りますし、その産業だけでなく 、彼らをTV番組に出演させて稼いでいるメディアからも 、反発を受けると思いますよ。
個人的には、それが景気の追い風になるなら、カモがど こでネギ背負ってようが、どうでもいいという気がしま すが。世の中、そういう人も必要だと思いますよ。典型 的には、Luis Viton freak みたいな人。



多くの欧米人は、特別に英語系のほうは、動物 利に気 にする人が多い。ベジタリアンの人だんだん多くなって くる。特別にイギリスで。それ以上、鯨、イルカと馬は 特別な「頭いい、人間の友の動物」と思う人が多い。日 本人も犬か猫を食べたい。同じ考え方。犬と猫より、鯨 か馬のほうが頭いい動物です。僕は まり気にしないけ どね。豚と牛も、犬か猫より脳が大きくて、頭がいいからね。そう思ったら、もうすべ ての肉食べない。

horses are friends??? Why do they kill horses on horse racing then? http://www.animalaid.org.uk/racing/
I actually asked the brit how they deal with inferior racehorses and she said "we just shoot them down". :okashii:

My point is they should have known some of us eat horse and seen my eating horse as respectfully as I don't care if they are vegetarians/dog-eaters/cat-eaters or not. I actually didn't take it so seriously then (as I enjoy it) but, if I truly felt offended I would just tell them not to do directly in person.

Maciamo/眞茶摸さん、志が高いのは立派ですが、これを貫徹する には(中途半端に活動しないとすれば)、敵が大きすぎる気がします。 実現性の目処は立っているんでしょうか。

Maciamo
Oct 14, 2005, 10:39
毎月、占いに10万円以上注ぎ込んでいる人もいるようで すので、この産業を撲滅しようとしたら、大仕事になる と思います

This fortune-teling business could be replaced by something similar but more scientific. For example, psychological studies, or personality tests. But there are always people in every country that prefer myths to reason. Yet I have the feeling that there are proportionally much more people believing in fortune-telling than science in Japan compared to Europe (note that I did not say "compared to the USA").



horses are friends??? Why do they kill horses on horse racing then? http://www.animalaid.org.uk/racing/
I actually asked the brit how they deal with inferior racehorses and she said "we just shoot them down". :okashii:

Well, my mother does horse riding (not races though), and never would anyone loving horses kill a horse so easily. I have never heard of people killing horse racing either. Then, real horse lovers do Equestrianism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equestrianism) (dressage, show jumping, etc.), not races.

But don't forget that not everyone like horses (it's not one of my favourite animal) and Westerners also eat horse meat (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horse_meat) (especially in French speaking countries like France, Belgium or Quebec). According to Wikipedia (see link above), 153,000 tonnes of horse meat was consumed in Europe in 2001.


My point is they should have known some of us eat horse and seen my eating horse as respectfully as I don't care if they are vegetarians/dog-eaters/cat-eaters or not.

They know that some people eat horse also in the West. But I am sure the people you met would have reacted the same way in their own country if someone had eaten horse in front of them. I would never been allowed to order horse meat at the restaurant in my mother's presence - not even talk about it !


Maciamo/眞茶摸さん、志が高いのは立派ですが、これを貫徹する には(中途半端に活動しないとすれば)、敵が大きすぎる気がします。 実現性の目処は立っているんでしょうか。

Yes, I realise that.

GaijinPunch
Oct 14, 2005, 10:55
毎月、占いに10万円以上注ぎ込んでいる人もいるようで すので、この産業を撲滅しようとしたら、大仕事になる と思います。

なくならない企業ですね。奥さんがわざわざ池袋まで有 名な占い師の所まで行ってました。英語は弱い方なのに 海外に引っ越したらローカルの人で受けていると思います。自分では完璧にお金 の無駄だと思っているけど「人にはそれぞれ」って覚え たら自分の生活が楽になると思います。


My point is they should have known some of us eat horse and seen my eating horse as respectfully as I don't care if they are vegetarians/dog-eaters/cat-eaters or not.

Well, at least you didn't eat whale. There would definitely have been some nastier looks. I'm an ex-smoker vegetarian (although I do eat seafood) but can sit in a room with people eating Yakiniku, and smoking. Tolerance is a beautiful thing.

monrepo
Oct 15, 2005, 00:17
...after trying to explain for a while, she finally said 英語できなくてツライわ!...
Can someone translate the japanese into English, please?

Elizabeth
Oct 15, 2005, 01:00
Japanese cheat "gaijin" by assuming they cannot speak Japanese without talking to them, it's "gomakashi!"
(前の翻訳:)日本人が外人に騙して会話しないで日本 語ができないと決するなんて胡麻菓子だ!
話題に合っていて、さ、使ってみようと思いました。
外人に騙して would be 外人 wo 騙して, but the placement is also wrong. Think about it more in relation to your subject. :note:

meverieJp
Oct 15, 2005, 13:53
Yet I have the feeling that there are proportionally much more people believing in fortune-telling than science in Japan compared to Europe (note that I did not say "compared to the USA").
That would be true but I doubt all of them truly believe it. I'd say most of them rather consider it as an entertainment or a tool to break the ice like some forum members said (whether you like it or not it's just their way).
More serious case is that it would be a first consultant for some of them to ask so as to ease their mental anxiety instead of psychological counseling, which incites them to fortune-telling addiction.



But don't forget that not everyone like horses (it's not one of my favourite animal) and Westerners also eat horse meat (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horse_meat) (especially in French speaking countries like France, Belgium or Quebec). According to Wikipedia (see link above), 153,000 tonnes of horse meat was consumed in Europe in 2001.
Thank you for the link. that accounts for the contradiction of the people I came across.



They know that some people eat horse also in the West. But I am sure the people you met would have reacted the same way in their own country if someone had eaten horse in front of them.
That's even worse if they had known it.lol
Maybe those people are not cut out for going overseas.. :p

And I'm not sure if this makes you feel better (I hope you will), but I asked a guy who used to work at an eikaiwa school how many teachers could speak Japanese at a reasonable level after several years stay in Japan. and the answer is:
"Are you joking?! Most of those teachers come to Japan just to party or hook up girls or because they couldn't get a decent job in their own country! People who were seriously trying to learn Japanese were less than 10%! I know a girl who has just started learning Japanese after 4 years stay and a guy who had been living with a Japanese girl friend for 4 years while going to Japanese school. They even frequently asked me about Japanese language!" (This guy's Japanese speaking ability is at around 4 years old level from my judgement)

I'm not saying it's all of them but somehow, I can easily imagine how many would-be teachers are alike.

meverieJp
Oct 15, 2005, 14:03
なくならない企業ですね。奥さんがわざわざ池袋まで有 名な占い師の所まで行ってました。英語は弱い方なのに 海外に引っ越したらローカルの人で受けていると思います。自分では完璧にお金 の無駄だと思っているけど「人にはそれぞれ」って覚え たら自分の生活が楽になると思います。
そうですね。似てるようで違うところが面白い。それに 自分の懐が痛むわけでもなし。笑) 
I rather enjoyed it because I found it interesting to see. ;)
逆に自分にそっくりすぎる人には、近寄らないかもしれ ません。 :blush:

Gaijinian
Oct 15, 2005, 21:02
Can someone translate the japanese into English, please?
英語できなくて辛いわ!
"Me not being able to speak English makes it difficult!"
Note: The way she used "turai" was strange, I think. I usually refers to emotional pain:

つらい 辛い
hard; painful; trying; bitter; unbearable; heartbreaking; tough.

(形)[文]ク つら・し
(1)心身に苦痛を感ずる。苦しい。がまんできない。
「―・い修行」「別れが―・い」
(2)人に対する仕打ちに思いやりがない。つめたくむご 「。無情・冷酷だ。
「―・く たる」「―・い仕打ち」
(3)どうしてよいかわからず苦しむ。困る。
「それを言われると―・い」
(4)人の心を汲(く)もうとしない。つれない。
「吉野川よしや人こそ―・からめ/古今(恋五)」
→づらい
I guess she had meant it as simply as "komaru" (or I HOPE, anyway...).

Uncle Frank
Oct 15, 2005, 22:15
The police used to raid the bar in Fukuoka where I worked about once a month. They would line us up and question us all for an hour and then leave. Almost everytime the officer would question me in Japanese and I would answer in Japanese. The officer would then ask one of my co-workers what I said and he would repeat what I said ,word for word, my Japanese answer ; then the officer would nod and write it down. We all used to laugh like hell at him (after he left) and do skit type repeats of it , and laugh some more.

Frank

:blush:

Gaijinian
Oct 15, 2005, 23:02
Strange and funny...

monrepo
Oct 17, 2005, 02:56
Thank you :)

celtician
Oct 27, 2005, 23:39
All you have to do is read Alan Booth's books about his walks in Japan from the tip of Hokkaido to the tip of Kyushu. A man who spoke perfect Japanese but in his travels through this dark archipelago you begin to realize how deeply and truly ignorant the Japanese mixed race are. Always asking stupid questions "Do you like natto?" (to make conversation??? really??) and refusing the FACT that this gaijin could speak Japanese even in many local dialects. In Japaland ignorance rules.

celtician
Oct 27, 2005, 23:41
Oh and don't walk through Japan the poor guy died shortly after of cancer. Hiking through this country could be bad for your health,

Bucko
Oct 28, 2005, 01:12
celtician, similar stories can be found in Hokkaido Highway Blues. The author actually talks about Alan Booth a few times.

toritaiyo
May 22, 2007, 14:09
When your japanese gets to a decent level (and you don't need to practice on random strangers anymore) why fight the Nihonjin urge to "try out" their English on you?
I find it more amusing and less stressful to let them try the conversation in Engrish. Less work and more fun.

Plus, for me, the better my Japanese has become and the more I understand the Japanese, the less confortable I feel speaking in Japanese; except for when it is a necessity. Can anyone else relate to that?

Grammarsaurus
May 25, 2007, 12:37
But don't forget that not everyone like horses (it's not one of my favourite animal) and Westerners also eat horse meat (especially in French speaking countries like France, Belgium or Quebec). According to Wikipedia (see link above), 153,000 tonnes of horse meat was consumed in Europe in 2001.

Quebec is not a country, though they wish they were. I found this topic fascinating. The only Japanese person outside of tourists to Victoria BC (I worked in the Empress hotel) I regularly converse with is my friend, Minoru. Perhaps I'm lucky, because he is half-Korean, and spent his teen years in Boston, so he understood the difference between say.. a Canadian and an Australian. Or a Russian and a Swede.

I did get quite a few surprised looks at my time in Victoria, however. I often addressed the Japanese tourists in Japanese if they were having a hard time with English. I'm at a conversational level, largely thanks to my High School offering courses for it, and my frequent communication and visits with Mino-chan. I never once heard them use gaijin when they were the ones who were foreigners, though, and you'd be amazed at how many Japanese tourists hit Victoria in the Spring and Summer seasons.

I look forward to visiting Japan in the next couple of years, but this thread has certainly given me some food for thought. I wanted to one day live and work in Japan, my ultimate goal when I was younger was working for Squaresoft, but I'm not entirely sure anymore. I'm still young, and have many years ahead of me to figure it out in any case. :)