Tuesday, August 12, 2008


I found my Japanese-English-English-Japanese dictionaries today. I knew I had them stowed away somewhere, it just took a little searching. I found my multilingual guide map to New York, too. Joe and I took a look at it after dinner.

I actually have a fairly easy time with pronunciation when it comes to foreign languages. What I don't have much luck with is remembering any of it! So, as I've mentioned before, when we went to New York with "the cousins from Japan", I took several translation dictionaries, and a notebook, so I could jot down things ahead of time so we could communicate as well as possible. My sentence structure was terrible, but I could at least at least convey where we were, where we were going, ask if anyone was hungry, and so on. To be honest, most of my sentences consisted of one or two words. Three, if I was really working at it. Plus a hand motion or two. The ability to play charades does come in handy.

Joe grew up in a household where his mother spoke Japanese, and his father spoke some. Strangely enough, neither Joe, nor his sister Theresa, or brother John, picked up much of the language. A phrase here and there, the ability to count in Japanese. But no real working knowledge of the language. So, it was rather amusing that on this trip I spoke better Japanese than Joe did.

One key word worth learning in Japanese is daijobu (pronounced di-jo-boo). This word is essentially translated as "okay" or "fine". However, depending on how you present it, it serves multiple purposes. Asked as a question it serves to inquire whether or not the person (or persons) you are speaking to is "okay", or in agreement. Expressed as an exclamation, it can convey that you are happy, pleased, excited, or, obviously, okay. Coupled with a slight "ta-da" of the hands, it can signal "destination achieved". Here's where it gets a little more complicated.

If you want to suggest that the group get a bite to eat, you should make eye contact with everyone, ask very slowly, and somewhat loudly, "Is anyone hungry? Hungry? (motion to stomach). I think that we (motion to yourself, then to all) should go (motion towards something) to the restaurant over there (point to restaurant) and get something to eat (motion to your mouth, then rub your tummy). Pause to allow time for confusion to settle. If this does not work, allow additional time for your co-traveler with the translation dictionaries to look up random words having to do with dinner, food, eat, and so on. Try one or two words or phrases to get the message across. If this does not work, revert once again to speaking slowly with gestures. When this fails, just hand signal to all to follow you and lead them to the nearest eating establishment.
Upon arriving, exclaim "daijobu!"

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