Lost in translation… again.


THIS arrived in our mailbox yesterday. And, of course…  because of our continuing lack of Japanese language skills, we had no idea what it was or what to do with it. Luckily, we have a concierge desk in the lobby of our apartment. It is only staffed during evening hours, from 18:00 to 22:00. The concierge also handles the dry cleaning service here…  my husband sent out his shirts for cleaning and pressing, and we had to go pick them up last night anyway, so we asked her about this notice.

It is a “failed delivery” notice…  Apparently they tried to deliver something that required a signature, and no one was home. The concierge speaks a little bit of English, and very kindly offered to call the number on the notice to schedule re-delivery for us.

I waited for it this morning… as required, and the mailman called our intercom from downstairs. I answered — in English — he responded — in Japanese…  I unlocked the door to let him into the lobby, and told him that I would come down. But, my dilemma was that then, I wasn’t sure if he understood me. Would he wait for me in the lobby, or would he come up to my door? There are 3 elevators… I didn’t want to miss him by going down in one elevator as he was coming up in another. Lol… So, I did actually wait a couple of minutes outside the elevator bank. I could hear the elevator coming up, so I hoped that it was him coming up to the 30th floor. And yes… it was. I met him as the doors opened, signed for our registered letter, and it was done. He was very nice, very polite, but again…  spoke no English. At least now I know that they DO bring the mail up to the door.

This language barrier sometimes seems so overwhelming. We have both been learning random useful phrases in Japanese. That has gotten us through so far, but we need to really start learning the language, and as I have talked about before, that means we need to learn the characters. We met with our Japanese teacher for the first time last night, and that is what she has started us on…  learning to read and write the syllabaries. Specifically, she started us writing the Katakana. 50 characters, and last night we worked on 15 of them. She gave us each a little practice pad marked off in squares, so that we could better draw the characters. I feel like a first grader again — practicing my alphabet. Lol…  This is hard!

I still feel like I need to be working on speaking the language, so I guess I will continue learning phrases for awhile. It is getting easier for me to read the words IF they are written in Romanji (the regular alphabet.) I at least have started to get used to the sounds of the Japanese language. It is getting easier to say the phrases I know, just because my mouth is getting used to the sound combinations that are unique to this language. I guess that is some degree of progress…  I think this might be a very long process.

Our Japanese teacher told us that there are usually so many Japanese people eager to practice speaking English, that we really could get by here in Tokyo without learning Japanese. I am not so sure I agree…  At least here in Shibaura, we have had many situations where the person we were attempting to communicate with spoke no English. And, we rarely see any non-Asians here in this part of Tokyo. At any rate…  I am in their country, and I feel like I SHOULD learn to speak their language.

Oh…  and that piece of mail we received? It was our ATM card from our new Japanese bank account. Unfortunately, all the instructions are in Japanese. I guess that will be the next hurdle to overcome.

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My husband and I were both born and raised in Kansas, but for the past 20+ years we have been living in Atlanta, Georgia. Now, with our children grown and out of the house, we have the opportunity to spend two years living in Tokyo. My husband will be working with the Japanese counterpart to his American company.

One thought on “Lost in translation… again.”

  1. I would imagine all your traveling around has not helped your learning process. Now that you’re back “home”, you can really focus and spend time learning. I agree that you are in their country and they need to at least see you are attempting to fit into their culture and understand. Sherry…you’ve always been very smart. You can do this. Don’t beat yourself up for your weaknesses right now. Its natural and you will improve!

    Liked by 1 person

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