06 October 2010

Stop Speaking Japanese To Me

Aimee and I are both studying Japanese but it's not that Japanese that this post is about. Although Aimee does sometimes find it irritating when I speak actual Japanese (my Japanese skills are higher than hers).

As English teachers we sometimes have to simplify our English when we talk to lower-level English speakers. This was a little difficult at first but after almost 7 months here it's ingrained and automatic. So much so that it's transitioned from a classroom thing to an outside-the-classroom thing. Perhaps this was inevitable.

The most common way to simplify your English is to make it really obvious that you're asking a question. In Japanese a question is made by putting a "ka" at the end of the sentence, so there's never any confusion about whether or not a question has been asked. If there's "ka," it's a question. In English it's sometimes a little more subtle. So one way to simplify your speaking is to make questions really obvious by having a rising intonation at the end of every one. This is natural with any yes/no question ("Did you have a good time?" "Do you want to see a movie?"), but a little less so with what/where/when/who questions.

We had this exchange last night:

Mike: What are you going to buy me for dessert? *his voice rising*

Aimee: Stop speaking Japanese.

Mike: Uh, what?

Aimee: You're speaking to me like I'm a Japanese person. *her voice rising*

Mike: Am I? *his voice rising*

Aimee: Yes, and it's really irritating.

It can be frustrating having to simplify your English but it's even more frustrating when that simplified English migrates into your everyday life. Next we'll be putting an "s" at the end of uncountable nouns.

Pray for us.


  1. Haha, I have a friend of mine who is living in North Korea right now teaching English and I bet she could totally relate. I joked her about the same sorts of things when she came back home to visit. I guess it is inevitable, though.

  2. When we get together with our friends here we inevitably complain about students and teaching. It's what teachers do best I guess.