Yesterday my sister and I met up with a friend of mine and his family at a park in Japan. He’s originally from the US but has lived in Japan for several years now and is (from my perspective anyway) totally fluent. His wife (Aさん) can speak some English, and their nearly two year-old daughter knows an impressive amount of words in both languages (though she hasn’t quite figured out when to use them all).
Throughout the day I had a lot of opportunities to talk to Aさん about various topics, making this by far the most time I’ve spent speaking Japanese in a single “session”, and essentially (aside from my very brief “first conversation” in Kyoto in 2019) was the first time I’ve had any meaningful interaction in a face-to-face context. There’s a unique feeling that comes with looking somebody in the eye as you speak and while I definitely still struggled from time to time it was rewarding to feel like “I’m really communicating with another person here”.
As always I made a lot of mistakes, some of which I noticed immediately and some of which I totally missed until they were pointed out. Here are a few of the ones I remember:
- When trying to say “when you went overseas, what was your favorite country?” I said 海外に行ったら、[…], when the obvious choice should have been 行ったとき. Fortunately my meaning came through and Aさん was able to correct me/confirm what I had meant to say.
- At one point I was trying to describe my hometown and was struggling to remember the word, so I said something like 小さい頃住んでいたとこ (Aさん said 地元? which was the word I had been looking for). I also tried to describe it as 小さくなくて1I should have said 小さくないけど 、人が少なくい and she came back with 田舎. In retrospect, my hometown was definitely 田舎, but for some reason I had only ever thought of that word as meaning rural Japan.
- At one point I was describing the general weather where I lived, and I gave the number in Celsius. When Aさん followed up to confirm that America uses “F”, I clarified using the phrase 郷に行けば郷に従え and felt pretty pleased that I had been able to pull it out of my memory in time. I realized after the fact that it should have been 入れば, but once again the meaning came through which is the main thing I guess.
- On two occasions, describing my plans for the trip, I made two separate mistakes. The first was to say “16 days” instead of “until the 16th”, and the second (when I was trying to clarify, later) was to say １６月 — making up entirely new months! Fortunately this is the kind of mistake where it’s completely obvious what you meant to say and while it was kind of a funny moment it didn’t cause any confusion.
One last little story: at one point I noticed that the little girl had strawberries on her socks and I asked her いちご好き？ Her response was いちごしない！ which got a laugh out of me and her parents alike. Her father says she probably wanted to say いちごはない (since there weren’t any strawberries at the moment). Apparently this is a common thing among Japanese children; they’ll use する to replace all kinds of verbs, not just those where it would actually work.
I had a really nice time and while I definitely struggled to come up with words from time to time, I did feel like I was pretty functional overall. Looking forward to the next opportunity.