Wednesday, December 23, 2009


There is an advantage of not knowing Japanese in Japan. When you're in a social, and everyone knows you don't speak Japanese, it forces them to speak in a lingua franca, English. And when they are conversing among themselves in their vernacular, you have lesser obligation to follow in. Which at most times suits me when I'm not feeling very sociable (occurs more often than you think).

The same thing happened when you're in a group of people who don't share the same vernacular with you. They conversed, in my case it was Mandarin, but I was somewhat OK. They were a group of Chinese and Chinese Malaysian.

As is with everything else in this world, when you have advantages, you also have disadvantages. You catch your professor's name in the conversations, but that was all that is. Had I been able to understand, it'd be easier to follow the latest dirt that would otherwise be unknown to me. There's also the core of socials: jokes. It proves particularly disadvantageous if the people in the socials are the people you want to bond with, but you don't feel like exerting Herculean work to be inside the conversation.

Now the wicked part of my brain says that the most advantageous position would be secretly understand the vernacular language, which then would allow you to indulge yourself in the dirts. But that would require a straight faces when the jokes are thrown.

Oh, vernacular means mother tongue, by the way. It really is a fancy word, isn't it?

(Kyoto-the morning after the department's year-end party, which saw me as the only gaijin out of 40-odd people there.)

1 comment:

Hning said...

Isn't it nice, that bubbles of privacy can be created with as simple as linguistic barriers?