Saturday, 1 August 2009

Japanese lessons and socks

So, I’m now doing, on and off, two Japanese lessons a week. Both are in their houses, so I have to take off my shoes when I enter. This is no big deal, but it does mean that on those days when I have Japanese I have to choose my socks carefully.

At the moment, in my bag along with my homework and a dictionary, is a pair of clean, hole-less socks which I will change into after I’ve washed my feet and then I can head out, confident that I will not cause offence on my arrival. On those occasions that I forget, a quick trip to a sock shop is needed or else I spend the lesson self consciously tucking my feet under my chair in a futile attempt at maximising the distance between my socks and her nose. Makes it difficult to concentrate on grammar. I've even gone to the trouble of buying new socks if I realise I have no spares to change into.

Meanwhile, in a recent lesson, my teacher and I were doing adjectives, and I asked what the Japanese for "simple" was. She said it was "shinpuru", シンプル, a loan-word from English. I was quite disappointed by this. If you go to all the trouble of learning a foreign language, it almost seems a shame when they start using large chunks of yours. Although, obviously, they had words for these concepts before English started influencing the language (the proper Japanese word is "kantan", 簡単, btw) it does conjure up some weird images of people in old Japan struggling to verbalise certain concepts. Like for "door" the Japanese say "doa", which brings to mind people saying "Don't forget to close the thing when you leave." "What - the window? The cupboard?" "No, the other thing. You know. The thing you walk through."

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