December 16th, 2006

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11:28 pm - Language gets in the way
Sometimes I am so tempted to chuck it all in the toilet and just go to Japan. I am under no illusions that Japanese people are inherently superior to American people, or even that Japanese culture is inherently superior to American culture. But sometimes I think that language just gets in the way. It's almost easier to make a connection with someone on a human level who shares very little culture with you. You try, and they recognize that, and they recognize that you are earnest or you are not earnest. And they respect or they don't respect the effort that you do or don't make. It all seems so simple, and clean, and honest.

But when you deal with people from your own culture, there is nuance upon nuance upon nuance to the point that people lose sight of what is real or not-real. When you speak with someone of your own culture, there is so much that you do share that you feel like everything has to be perfect. You think that you completely understand everything that the other person has to say, or vice versa, when you really don't. If you were speaking to someone who barely knew your language, you'd at least know that it was easy to mean completely different things from what you wound up saying or the other person wound up hearing. But in your own, you mistake fluency for perfection. And nothing, nothing, is perfect. Sometimes, the more you think you know, the less you are capable of perceiving.

I know so very, very little about the Japanese language and culture. But at least, they recognize that I care. That I try. That I respect. That I am capable of making progress. And sometimes, I think it would be worth sacrificing all the capability I have already achieved in my own culture to get the recognition that I am trying - and the perception of the effort, rather than the cookie-cutter judgment of my precise presentation - in another.

Current Mood: tsukene de wa arimasen
Current Music: Daft Punk - Human After All

(5 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture] From: soulranger
Date: December 17th, 2006 - 02:44 pm
You know, I have that similar thought whenever I think about the "silent" episode from Buffy, The Vampire Slayer, regarding how language can be barriers to communication. I often have to communicate with many Spanish-speaking people and use what I've retained from high school. Granted, my Spanish is more fluent than your Japanese, but my interactions are usually more warm and tactile than with English-speaking people, because we're both fumbling to find the right words, right tense, but end up understanding each other anyway by short bursts of clarity and body language. In the end though, after the warm and muddled pleasantries give way to frustration of sarcasm and euphemisms not being understood, I always prefer people that truly understand everything I'm saying. Even if they don't like me for it.

[User Picture] From: jimbojones
Date: December 17th, 2006 - 07:59 pm
And yet, ironically, I'd say you and I have been an excellent example of true understanding not accompanying fluency.

[User Picture] From: soulranger
Date: December 18th, 2006 - 12:25 am
I don't get it :(

[User Picture] From: discogravy
Date: December 18th, 2006 - 02:36 am
i would consider bringing this up to fen via email or PM via pen -- he will probably be able to give you a more serious perspective on the life of an ex-pat in .jp. despite animosity, i believe he would actually give you an un-biased and honest opinion on the matter.

that said, at some point, you'll gain fluency. sooner rather than later, since you'll be immersed in the society and _want_ to do it, and you'll need it. once that happens, you'll more than likely be back at square one: fluency and not being sure how much to trust the words you're hearing or the intentions behind those words.

[User Picture] From: lauracroft
Date: December 18th, 2006 - 04:59 pm
Perceptive and well put.

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