Got My Move On
I stopped to pet a cat at the athletic park to prove a point. The previous day, I had asked the teacher and the other students for the word for “purr.” I tried explaining it, and even pulled up a video of a cat purring loudly on my iPhone for everyone to listen to. I was told in no uncertain terms that such a thing does not exist. Cats don’t make “happy sounds,” I was told. At least not in Asia, apparently. They just “meow.” So I stopped and pet a technically-feral but very friendly kitty, who shortly started purring softly. It was a triumphant moment. I’m not quite sure why this was so important to me, but I did a little victory dance. Plus, I got to pet a happy cat.
I also finally started using the monorail. It’s only three blocks from my house, but I was intimidated by it, and never tried it. A friend dragged me out shopping at second-hand stores, and showed me how easy the monorail was to use. It’s actually much easier than the ones in Tokyo. The Okinawan monorail is also quite a bit more English-friendly than the Tokyo railway. Go figure.
Got My Groove On
“Eureka!” example: we were talking about the ocean, and I learned that the word for “wave” is “nami.” I was going to memorize it by linking it in my head to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness, a great nonprofit), but then, like getting hit with a ton of bricks, I realized that the local beach name “Nami-no-ue,” means “above the waves.” I was in the middle of asking the teacher something when the realization hit me, and I stopped with an awestruck look on my face as I repeated “Nami-no-ue means on top of the waves. Oh My God!” several times. She was quite amused with my reaction. I didn’t mind getting snickered at for being dorky; I know that getting to watch “Eureka!” moments like that will make a teacher’s day, and it sure as heck made mine.
My speaking skills have also moved up a notch. A new teacher started on Monday, and when I was introducing myself I noticed how much easier it was than before, and how I didn’t have to think about it anymore. Granted, self-introduction phrases are some of the easiest, and you use them all the time, but being able to do it without thinking is a Big Deal to me. It means that I was able to be more responsive when he answered back and introduced himself, since I wasn’t mentally exhausted from just introducing myself, like I used to be.
Got my Improve On
Now that I have noticed the above trend, I have gotten much better at it. Even if I only understand one word in two sentences, which is still an all-too-common experience, between that one word and the nonverbal context, I can often follow the gist.
I have noticed also that my negative emotional reactions, and those I instill in other people, are markedly increased. I offend several people per day, and grossly offend several people per week, and often in ways that ruin the relationship, if there is one.
For example, I went to a smoothie store, and asked for a taste of one of their specials. I was expecting something sweet, and instead got a tomato-based concoction. I’m sure it was very excellent if you like that sort of thing, but I don’t really care for salty, especially when I am expecting sweet. The employee asked me how it was, and the only word I could think of was “interesting,” so I blurted it out and preemptively cringed. I cringed again when I saw her get upset. Whoops. I’ve been there at least five times now, and she still won’t look me in the eye.
My own negative reactions are also heightened. Normally, when someone says something rude to me, I just ignore it, or snap a verbal retort back. Water off a duck’s back and all that. But here, because my verbal answers are so limited, I frequently get flustrated (I love that word) instead. But again, now that I recognize this, it is getting better.
Turn and Burn
Granted, for me language learning is cooperative rather than competitive endeavor, but competitive self-talk is helpful for me when my motivation gets low.
Let’s Turn and Burn!