osm1_2win 52M
23 posts
8/8/2006 11:43 am

Last Read:
8/9/2006 3:23 am


When I first came to Japan, my greatest fear wasn't whether or not to take of my shoes when entering a home. It wasn't if I was supposed to bow or shake hands. It wasn't even if which end of the chopsticks I should use.

It was trying to speak.

Back home in America, since most people do not speak Japanese, my Japanese sounds very good when I use it. But here, it is terrible. Many times I have slammed my Japanese language book shut in frustration and shoved it across the table. I did not try to meet many Japanese people.

I was too afraid.

But one day, I met a young girl while playing volleyball. She was 4 years old. She was very brave and spoke to me in English and said, "Hello." I said hello back and this made her very happy. Soon, we were speaking in simple Japanese. She asked me my age, where I was from, and even what kind of food I liked. We talked for a long time and played volleyball together. Soon, she had to leave but the experience has stayed with me. If a little girl was brave enough to speak with someone from another country, I should be brave enough to speak with others too.

This story is several months old. But I met up with this little girl just today in the grocery store. I didn't recognize here but she marched right up to me and started talking with me again. At first, I treated her as some stranger and smiled a lot. But then, she mentioned my name and I was shocked. How did she know me? Where did she know me from? Did I accidentally date her mother once? I asked her and she reminded me that we had played volleyball together.

The light of recognition clicked on!

And then we spoke.

I think my Japanese had improved a little bit because I understood every word. And if she ever had any fear of a "gaijin" (gaikookujin - foreigner), she didn't show it. She told me she had just started school for the first time and she showed me her name tag and I cannot express in words just how wonderful I felt knowing that I had a little friend here.

This tip is a surprisingly easy one. The only TRUE way of learning any language is to use it. Like any muscle in the body, this skill will atrophy if not put to use. Don't be afraid. Like me, you have to get past that fear of making mistakes and that fear of sounding like a child. It may seem impossible at first and everyone may sound as if they are babbling like little 4 year old kids.

But you know...those 4 year old children have things to say and they will say them to YOU if you listen!

hinoeuma 52F

8/8/2006 11:57 pm

A very lovely story. Children are great aren't they, just accepting people for who they are. We could all learn something just in that!

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