Communication Dilemma

Happy New Year, O World!

Well, while the first post of the New Year “has got to be good,” as I said last year, I really don’t have anything super great to post to this blog. Over at Lucky Hill though, I’ve been slowly writing up my trip to Tokyo, which is pretty interesting, thinks I.

Anyway, I’ve got a communication dilemma.  I hope no one takes this the wrong way.  To help make it clearer, let me start with an anecdote.

One day, for Oral Communication class (I’m an ALT in Japan for those just tuning in), we had the students make their own English comic strips.  First, they had to decide the who, what, when, and where of the story.  One girl wrote, for the “when,” 「戦国時代」which is “sengoku jidai.”  I said to her, “Oh, that’s cool! So you know, the English term for ‘sengoku jidai’ is ‘Warring States Period.'” A bit later, the JTE (Japanese Teacher of English) walked by her, saw the paper, and was trying to come up with a good translation of “sengoku jidai,” since apparently, “Warring States Period” didn’t look right to him.  Luckily, it was one of the JTE’s who honestly doesn’t mind making mistakes in front  of students.  I said to him, “I told her that ‘sengoku jidai’ is ‘Warring States Period;’ that’s the word used in history classes in American schools to refer to the ‘sengoku jidai.'” He just laughed and said “gomen.” (I pointed it out because I knew that he was one of the teachers who knows that he sometimes says the wrong thing in English and doesn’t mind being corrected.)

That’s just one of many examples of a Japanese person who knows a fair amount of English saying the wrong thing nonetheless.  Likewise, while I know enough Japanese to get by, I know I make many mistakes when I speak or write Japanese.  It’s an age-old dilemma: when both parties are wrong, who do you listen to? When a Japanese person explains my mistakes to me in less-than-fluent English, how do I know which part of their explanation is correct?

Another thing I wonder about is the infamous tendency of many Japanese to say things indirectly.  I asked one of the teachers here (this conversation was in English), “I was taught by my college professors, both native Japanese, that it’s rude to call people ‘anata,’ but now that I’ve spoken with students of Japanese from other colleges, I see that not everyone was taught that.  Is it just people from certain areas that think it’s rude to use ‘anata’?”  The response I got was, “You’re right, we don’t really call people with ‘anata,’ we use their name.”  While that does tell me that I should continue avoiding “anata,” it doesn’t answer the question “is it rude or not?”, and I don’t know if that’s because the teacher didn’t think it was important, or she didn’t want to appear rude by saying that people who use ‘anata’ are rude.


Oh yeah, one more thing, but about communication on the internet…I hate it when people link to this blog, but then make their entries locked to the general public.  Is it just me, or is that strange?  Every now and then, there’ll be a noticeable spike in hits (I don’t get that many, so it’s very obvious when it happens), and I can see that nearly everyone’s coming from the same site, but I can’t view their site! What’s up with that?  Especially when I end up getting rude comments on the same days as the spikes in hits, I have to wonder what it is those sites that are linking here are about.  I’d like to think it’s polite to let the owner of the blog you’re linking to know what it is you’re doing if you’re not going to make your site visible to the general public.  Is that an unreasonable thing to ask?