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Sunday, July 29, 2012

English And Japanese Comprehension #1

This is a true story. I know, because it happened to me.

One of the first times I ever traveled by myself on the JR (Japan Rail) train line, it was from Nishinasuno-eki (Nishinasuno Train station) to Tokyo. I was what i would consider still newly arrived in Japan, and I had not yet developed a sense that I was useless in getting about in this country.

The year, 1990... September... I had arrived in Japan about five weeks earlier. in that period, I had been lost in Tokyo - so lost in fact that there was no longer any neon light visible where I was. I had also gotten lost in the rice fields near my apartment, spending some three hours sweltering in the hot mid-day heat.

In the months and years ahead, there would be many other such lost encounters.

Despite my nervousness, I needed to purchase a ticket at the ticket booth in Nishinasuno station. I had seen my buddy Matthew, and my girlfriend Ashley do this in the weeks past, but they had always done it for me. This time... I was on my own.

I went up to the JR ticket counter and told him in English - because I had very few Japanese words - that I wanted to buy: "One ticket to Tokyo," and held up one finger while sliding a ¥10,000 bill (Cdn/US $127.85).

The JR man gave me two tickets and began to fish about for the change.

Before the change was handed back, I said (in English): "No, no... one ticket for Tokyo."

Realizing his mistake, the JR man gave me four tickets.

Fortunately there was a Japanese man standing behind me.

Unfortunately, the Japanese man behind me wanted to help.

He stood beside me and while looking for the right Japanese words, scratched his head and says (in Japanese): "E-to" (pronounced eh-toe) which in English translates into: "Well..."

Before either of us could say anything, the JR ticket man gave us an additional four tickets, so that I now had a total of eight tickets.

The helpful Japanese man and I stare at each other and the tickets in my hand and start laughing.

After some quick explanations by the helpful man to the JR ticket man, the JR ticket man finally has it all figured out. Seeing me - the foreigner - he had been wanting to try out his English comprehension.

I'm betting that poor JR man will never again try to show off his English comprehension again... especially not on the job.

Three years later... I had that same JR ticket man in a small English conversation class. He remembered me (of course) and reminded me of how embarrassed he was that day.

After class, I bought us eight beers and used my Japanese to to do it.

Kanpai (Cheers)
Andoryu -sensei (Andrew teacher)

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