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I Am Not Japanese

October 9, 2003

I’ve been listening to Japanese language tapes on my commute this week in an attempt to learn something more useful to say when we go to Tokyo than “Mr. Tanaka is in the kitchen”, which is one of the few things that stuck from the Japanese class we took last spring. Well, that’s not quite true, since I don’t right at this moment even recall the word for “kitchen”. That’s okay; I don’t think I’ll be tested on parts of a house before I’m allowed into the country.

I checked out these tapes from the library because they don’t require a book, which is perfect for learning in the car. I’m finding, though, that I really wish there were a book to glance at when I get to work or home. With just the tape, I don’t have a reliable way to come up with a visual representation of the word and without a visual, it’s harder for me to remember. I can guess at the romanji, sure, and it helps a lot to have had the class so I know that the “des” sounds at the ends of words are written “desu”, for instance, but when I come to words that we didn’t have in class, I’m on my own to make up the spelling and I find that disconcerting. I’ve tried looking up some of the words in the textbook from class and in a phrase book I also got from the library, but that gets tedious. I’m afraid that without seeing the words, I’ll learn them wrong. I’m just hoping I don’t learn them so wrong that I’ll find it impossible to be understood.

One of the lessons spent so much time going over how to say “but I’m not skilled yet” and “I’m not good” that I got the words on repeat in my brain even after I turned the tape off. The narrator would prompt “Say ‘I can speak Japanese a little'” and after the pause for my answer would go on, “and you’d better add ‘I’m not very good yet'”. Gee, thanks. I suck so much a guy whose not even listening to me can tell I’m bad. I did find that if you cheat with the syllables just a little, it’s quite easy to sing “demo mada jozu ja arimasen” to the tune of Day-O (Banana Boat Song).

Demo ma-a-a-da
Demo jouzu ja ari-mase-e-n

Hey, I may not be good at Japanese, but at least I have a happy tune to go with my helping of low self esteem. Should I surprise everyone and become a fluent speaker, I have learned how to say “I’m not Japanese” in case anyone gets confused. Well, in case any blind people get confused, since people who can see will probably be clued in by my pink skin and blue eyes (sorry, hazel, at least according to the lady at the Clinique counter where I got a makeover in the late 1980s).


If you’re married to me, on my notify list, or just detail obsessed, you already know that I’ve now got my own domain. I’ve started to move some of my more static pages over and plan to eventually move the whole journal, but it will be a while.


A year ago, I was in the middle of recapping JournalCon. Looking at that reminds me once again that I haven’t yet finished my swag for this year’s con. I have finished my to do list for this year’s swag, and even done some of the prep steps, like making sure I have a fresh bottle of Tacky Glue to take on the plane.

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