As we continue living in Japan, we are often amazed at how much we can understand and communicate to others, simply using facial expressions and actions. These types of tools are incredibly powerful, both to our own understanding and to being understood by others. That’s what makes the telephone so daunting for us: the visual aids, that help us so greatly, are removed.

Over the last few months, as my language abilities have been improving, the telephone has gotten marginally less daunting. I’ve successfully navigated several Japanese language calls from various people (some friends, some strangers).

Tuesday nights are our date night. As a special treat, we sometimes get take-out: whether sushi, or McDonald’s. Tonight, I decided to stretch myself and try ordering in some pizza for dinner, from a place called “Pizza-La”. I joked with Peter, “If our dinner doesn’t show up tonight, then we may have to cook something ourselves.”

First, came the preparation. We had a Pizza-La menu, which I scoured for details. I knew that the key to a successful conversation would be in the preparation. I made a list of all the options I would need to select: “M-saizu” for “medium size”, “hando-tosu” for the crust selection, and “Maragurita” for the flavour (tomato, onion, and basil). In my dictionary, I looked up the word for “delivery”. Hmm, maybe the word “try” would useful. I looked that up too. I added up the cost of the items I wanted to order. If the cost that Pizza-La told me was the same as my calculation, I would know I’d ordered the right things. I pulled up my own name in our address book, just before I called. In the stress of the call, I didn’t want to forget a key component of our address.

The conversation went something like this:

Pizza-La: {a bunch of things I didn’t understand} “Pizza-La” {a bunch of other things I didn’t understand}

Me (in Japanese): “I’m sorry, I’m Canadian and my Japanese isn’t very good. This is my first time calling to make an order for pizza.”

Pizza-La: “If you wait, I can find someone who speaks English to help you.”

Me: “Thank you, but I would like to try using Japanese. Is this ok?”

Pizza-La: “Yes. Please go on.”

Me: “I would like to have delivery.”

Pizza-La: “Delivery. I understand.”

Me: “First, Maragurita pizza, M-saizo…”

Pizza-La: “Maragurita, yes. M-saizu, yes.”

Me: “Oh, sorry, M-saizu. Hando-tosu.”

And so we went on: I would state my selection for an option, and he would confirm the selection. Eventually we came to the end of the order.

Pizza-La: {a few things I didn’t understand} “number” {more I didn’t understand}

Me: “Do you want my phone number?”

Pizza-La: “Yes.”

I told him our phone number, proud that I could now read the numbers off without thinking about what the Japanese words were.

Pizza-La: {I didn’t understand any of his next sentence.}

I knew that the request for my address should be coming up. Though I’d kept my ears tuned in for the word I knew for address, I didn’t hear it in his previous sentence. However, I decided to assume that he’d just asked for our location anyway. I rattled it off, and it seemed to be what he’d been expecting.

He repeated back my order to me again, and I proudly understood everything he said.

Pizza-La: {something I didn’t understand} “minute.”

Hmm… sounds like he’s talking about how long it might be until the pizza arrives.

Me: “I’m sorry, can you please say that again?”

He repeated himself. Yes, I was right. The pizza will arrive in 30-40 minutes. Then he told me the cost of my order. I didn’t quite hear the last two numbers, but the first two matched my calculation. We were in the ballpark! I thanked him, and hung up the phone.

Twenty minutes later, the delivery boy dropped everything off at our door… and everything was exactly as I’d intended to order it. I’ve never before felt so victorious in ordering a pizza! And let me tell you: after such an accomplishment that pizza tasted pretty wonderful!

(Picture source)