newsletter,L'ESPACE

May 2022

Our monthly online newsletter,"L'ESPACE".
L'ESPACE is a diverse French word that means place,area,cosmos,and gap.

Intercultural Crosstalk

This is a friendly discussion between foreigners living in Tokyo.
Let’s hear some “real voices” discussing their daily lives and cultural differences.

About Life in Japan
From a Thai, Bolivian, and Ugandan Perspective

Intercultural Crosstalk
From left to right, Miguel Serrano from Bolivia, Edd Shimizu from Thailand, and Tamaki Hagami from Uganda.

Profiles

Miguel Serrano (from Bolivia)

Years of residence in Japan
14 years
Native language
Spanish
Favorite Japanese words
“Ganbaru”(Try one’s best)
Favorite places in Tokyo
Sumida Ward
Favorite food
Yakiniku and barbecue
Working in own country
Registered surveyor
Working in Japan
Self-employed

Edd Shimizu (from Thailand)

Years of residence in Japan
16 years
Native language
Thai
Favorite Japanese words
“Isshokenmei”(To work with “all one’s strength”)
Favorite places in Tokyo
Tokyo Sky Tree, Downtown Tokyo
Favorite food
Sushi
Working in own country
Logistics management
Working in Japan
Event planning and management, sales, etc.

Tamaki Hagami (from Uganda)

Years of residence in Japan
7 years
Native language
English
Favorite Japanese words
“Kawaii”(cute),
Favorite places in Tokyo
Odaiba
Favorite food
Sushi
Working in own country
None, since I came to Japan immediately after university
Working in Japan
Full-time employee

1st RoundAbout Japanese Language

I couldn’t speak Japanese at first

Intercultural Crosstalk
Edd Shimizu, who attended volunteer Japanese language classes six days a week.
Edd Shimizu (hereafter: Edd)

I wasn’t able to speak Japanese at all.

Miguel Serrano (hereafter: Miguel)

I couldn't speak Japanese at all either.

Tamaki Hagami (hereafter: Tamaki)

I could speak basic Japanese. I studied Japanese at the Japanese Embassy in Uganda when I was in high school. I also learned Japanese from a JICA employee when I was a university student. Both were basic Japanese lessons.

Miguel

I couldn’t speak at all, so I went to a Japanese language school for three months. I started working right away, but I knew that wasn’t enough, so I went back for another 3 months, having a total of 6 months of study.

Edd

I studied at volunteer Japanese classes. At first I attended classes in Sumida, Koto, and Adachi wards six days a week. I found them online, but at the time I looked them up in English. They were very helpful because they taught me not only the language, but also many aspects of daily life.

Miguel

I also attended volunteer classes. I attended two volunteer classes twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I agree, they were helpful because they taught me about daily life as well.

Tamaki

I also took volunteer classes for about a year. Sadly, I haven’t been able to attend since I started working. Everyone has a different Japanese level in them, so I felt they weren’t enough for me because we couldn’t study on a one-to-one basis. But I did want to improve my Japanese, so I found a Japanese language school that I could attend on weekends and have been attending every Saturday for the past two years.

Japanese is difficult

Intercultural Crosstalk
Miguel Serrano, who says he started speaking Japanese in his sleep
Edd

Japanese is still difficult for me.
Thai has many pronunciations that Japanese doesn’t have. For Thai people, words that begin with "S" and "T" are difficult to say and to hear. "Su" and "tsu" words are especially difficult.

Miguel

Since there is no distinction between "R" and "L" in Japanese, I sometimes wonder which is the correct way to say things when talking to Japanese people.

Edd

It's because the Japanese language has only the "R" sound. For example, “room” and “London” use the same "R" consonant sound in Japanese. In English, "R" and "L" are pronounced differently.

Miguel

It’s the same with Spanish. I’m teaching my children the difference between “R” and “L” now.

Tamaki

Also, Japanese and English grammar have different word orders. You have to listen to the end of a Japanese sentence to understand it.

Edd

Yes, yes, I have made that mistake. I’ve confused "narimasu (will be)" and "narimasen (will not be)" because I didn’t catch the last part.

Tamaki

One thing I find interesting is katakana words. For example, Japanese people use the phrase "tenshon ga takai (high tension)". I think the meaning of the word "tension" is a little different between English and Japanese.

Edd

I find it interesting that Japanese people shorten the words. The first one that surprised me was the word “paso-con”. I knew the meaning of the word in katakana, but I kept wondering what it meant in English, and finally realized that it was short for “personal computer”.

Tamaki

Also kanji are difficult, since there are so many ways to use them. When I see a kanji for the first time, it looks like a picture to me. You need to learn a lot of kanji to get to a native level. I want to learn more kanji.

Edd

At work, I find it very difficult to write in “sonkei-go (honorific language)” and “kenjyo-go (humble language)”. I don’t think it’s good to overuse them, so it’s hard to find a balance.

Miguel

The documents we receive from the city office are also difficult. My wife is Japanese, so I can ask her, but if you don’t have a Japanese person in your family, it would be very difficult.

Tamaki

First, I usually try to read the documents from the city office. Then, I check in Google if it’s difficult, but I can deduce the important parts.

What are you good at: Listening, Speaking or Writing?

Intercultural Crosstalk
Tamaki Hagami, who says kanji are difficult
Edd

I don’t have a problem with listening, but I’m not good at writing.

Miguel

It’s the same for me.

Tamaki

I can easily write hiragana and katakana, but kanji is a little difficult to write without looking at an example. I think the order of my Japanese level is, listening first, talking second and writing last.

Edd

Miguel san and Tamaki san, when you speak Japanese, do you think in your native language before speaking? Or do you think in Japanese first?

Miguel

I think in Japanese and then speak in Japanese. That was after my daughter was born though. It was around 2 years after I came to Japan. I tried to think in Japanese since I was speaking to my daughter in Japanese. Apparently I was speaking in Japanese in my sleep as well.

Edd

A Thai friend once told me, “If you hear Japanese in your dreams, it’s a sign that your Japanese has improved”. I was really happy when I dreamed in Japanese. That was probably 2 to 3 years after I came to Japan.

Tamaki

I had been speaking in English with my mother, but these days we speak in Japanese. She tells me my Japanese has improved. It was probably since the third year after coming to Japan.

Advice for people who study Japanese

Intercultural Crosstalk
Their native languages are different, and the common language is Japanese
Miguel

When I studied Japanese, I tried to memorize five verbs every day. I learned them by writing them down, but now I have forgotten how to write them.

Tamaki

First of all, you must have an interest in the Japanese language. Then, if you have the will to never give up, you will gradually become better and better at it.
I studied hard and became a lot better in Japanese.

Edd

Some people study Japanese in romaji, but it’s better to study from hiragana and katakana, because if not, you will have to study the same thing twice. Also, it’s better to learn from a Japanese teacher. It’s sometimes easier to understand the grammar explained from someone from the same country, but when it comes to pronunciation, a Japanese teacher is better. If you learn a different pronunciation, it’s hard to fix it.

--- Continued in the Following Issues

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