Learning English

Me: How’s things?

Japan: I’m a bit tired. I’ve been studying English for ages.

Me: I’ve noticed. It’s nice that you’re trying though.

Japan: Nice?

Me: Yeah.

Japan: Trying?

Me: Yeah.

Japan: Nice that i’m trying? I spend millions learning your back to front language. I’ve got books coming out of my ears. I’ve got TOEIC tests every other month. I’ve got vocabulary books infesting corners of book shops. I’ve got thousands of English teachers.

Me: And yet you appear to find it all quite complicated.

Japan: It is.

Me: But you don’t seem to make things easy for yourself. You’ve got a huge complex about making mistakes.

Japan: Mistakes are bad.

Me: Don’t mistakes show you where to improve? You need to make mistakes when you learn a new language otherwise you won’t know where you’re going wrong.

Japan: But going wrong is, well, wrong. It’s against the rules.

Me: That’s the other problem. You’re obsessed with rules. You constantly need to know if any rules have been broken.

Japan: Well of course. Then i can see where i’m going wrong and which mistakes i’m making.

Me: But you hate making mistakes.

Japan: Obviously. They’re wrong.

Me: But that means that you never really experiment with the language or play with it in context. You sit reading books and taking tests being scared of making mistakes and getting consumed by the rules. You’re so obsessed with not making a mistake when speaking English that you treat it like it’s a hazardous chemical about to blow up in your face if you make the slightest infringement.

Japan: I don’t want to embarrass anybody.

Me: How would you embarrass anybody?

Japan: By saying something incorrectly.

Me: Why would would that be embarrassing?

Japan: Because i’d made a mistake and broken the rules. It’s a social minefield. It’s a scary place.

Me: No it’s not.

Japan: Yes, it is. And you don’t make it easy for me either. I have no idea if something is rude or relaxed or formal or informal or a joke or real. Your pronunciation is weird. You’ve got too many tenses. You confuse the brains out of me. You’re constantly updating slang words as if you have to replace half the expressions every other season like some vain phrase whore. And then, if you go to Australia it’s completely different form the English they speak in Canada. It’s just so damn fluid.

Me: I like it like that. There’s so much room to swim about and express yourself.

Japan: But it just makes things more frustrating.

Me: But you’re still continuing to learn English with quite a large appetite.

Japan: I’ve got no choice. The whole world is consumed with it for the time being. It’s everywhere and it seems to be constantly changing. Learning your language is like trying to catch a shadow in the dark. Whilst blindfolded. On one leg. Going uphill. With a cross wind.

Me: It’s unstable and potentially bad for your health?

Japan: No, it feels nearly impossible.

Me: Ah, right. Well, you seem to have done ok during this conversation.

Japan: We’re the same person, dickhead.

Me: Fair point.

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June 13, 2012. Tags: , , , . Uncategorized.

One Comment

  1. Daniel replied:

    That was very insightful. I don’t know about Japan, but I went to Graduate School in the US with a Chinese student. He could write English better than many of the students, and had a marvelous grasp of grammar, but couldn’t speak well at all. I suppose that was from a lack of practice, or maybe, as you imply, a lack or wanting to practice.

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