Nar3: Japan

Posted on Thursday, October 9th, 2003 at 11:30am by Brett.
(Friday, October 10th, 2003 at 12:30am Japanese Standard Time)

Yesterday I had to give a speech in my Japanese class. In Japanese.

It wasn't too bad. I didn't get sick, I didn't loose control of any bodily functions, I didn't trip or knock things over or do anything like that. But it could have been better.

Every week in my Japanese language class we have to write an essay. From these essays, we have to prepare two and turn them into speeches. Because I chose to go so early in the trimester, I only had two speeches to choose from: "My Country's Customs (using giving and receiving verbs)" and the "If....Then" essay. (Sorry for the crap description...there's really no way to translate this into English.)

I was absent the day the "If...then" essay was assigned. I wasn't skiving classes (fun British slang!), I had a nasty headache so I went home to bed. My friends told me that I needed to write an essay giving a self introduction, and then saying "If I had a 1,000,000 yen, then I would...". So merrily I write this essay, and then turn it in. I get it back with LOADS of red marks (and a bit of green, for some reason).

Generally, you write an essay, turn it in, have it torn apart, then rewrite it with the corrections. So that's what I did. It was the day before my speech, and I hadn't receive my essay back, so I went to talk to the teacher grading it.

This teacher...we call her (very respectfully, mind you) shinu-sensei. Shinu is the Japanese verb meaning "die", and happens to apparently be her favorite word. In class, she has used example sentences such as, loosely translated: "Lee was troubled by his father's death because now he can't give Lee money." and "Lee was run over by a car and died, but only Mr Tanaka's leg was run over by a car, so he didn't die.".

She also doesn't like Americans. This is apparent because she is always saying "You're an American so....blah blah blah".

Anyway. I ask for my paper in her office. She tells me I wrote a very nice essay, but it was over the wrong topic. She then explains exactly the topic. I'm a bit worried now because I have to give this speech the next day. She, though, tells me that I can use the old essay from the week before. I pull it out, and it's got a considerable amount of red on it. She asks if I can re-write it. That minute. With her standing over me watching....

So I did.

Then she asks me to stand up in the staff room and read it out loud.

So I did.

She then tells me that I had better practice really hard that evening if I have to give a speech the next day. She also says that I have to give a self introduction BEFORE the speech starts. Blech.

So the next day comes, and I'm all ready to go, but feeling a bit sick. She asks who wants to go first and both Liz and I raise our hands. Liz let me go first, so all is well.

I get up there, and start into my self introduction. It was like I was being possessed by some Japanese-speaking genius. The words were FLOWING mercifully from my mouth like never have they flowed before. My self introduction actually received applause from the class!

Then comes the speech. My topic was American Mother's Day. It was pretty easy to use giving and receiving verbs here because in Japanese if you do something for someone, you use a giving verb to express that.

My actual speech received timid claps.

I got the comment sheet back from Shinu-sensei, and it said that I prepared well, but spoke too loudly. Yeah...I was too loud???

I asked her about this, and you have to understand...she REFUSES to speak English. So she's trying to explain to me what she meant in Japanese. Finally, she was like "Say 'Watashi wa America-jin desu.'" Which means, "I'm an American."

She had me say this like 10 times before finally stopping me and saying "Because you're an American, you're saying 'waTAshi wa aMErica-jin DEsu'" Basically what it boiled down to is that my intonation sucks. GRR.