I thought I’d share a funny story with you today, and invite you to laugh along with us.
In the last couple weeks, I seem to have turned a corner in my language abilities. In conversations, I used to think of what I wanted to say in English, and then determine what vocabulary I would need in Japanese, then plan the most understandable placements of the words and grammatical particles before even opening my mouth. However, about two weeks ago something changed. In one conversation, I opened my mouth without thinking, and words came out. When I replayed in my head what I’d said, I realized that all of the vocabulary and grammar were correct! I’m increasingly finding that I no longer think in terms of a language, but rather meaning.
This type of ability usually comes to me after three or more years of learning a new language in a classroom setting. So, the mathematical side of me is interested to see that in an immersion setting this process has been accelerated by at least a factor of two.
Vocabulary seems to come a little easier, and linguistic syntax is not always at the forefront of my mind. However, as I discovered yesterday, this can sometimes have funny results!
Yesterday was Mother’s Day at our church. Peter and a few of the other men got together the afternoon before to do some cooking in advance. Yesterday, the men cooked the women lunch. Before you ask, I must say that it was extremely (!) tasty.
At one point, I spent some time chatting with one of our friends, Karin. Now, I must explain the meanings of a couple terms in Japanese:
- hito: person
- nin: person
- jin: person
In Japanese, sometimes when you want to make a term plural, you repeat the term with a minor variation. For instance, if I wanted to say “person”, I would say “hito”; if I wanted to say “people”, I would say “hito bito”.
In my conversation yesterday, I meant to say “people”. However, with my brain on auto-pilot, what came out was “nin jin”. My friend started to laugh, and it took me a second to replay the conversation in my head and realize why.
“Ninjin” means “carrot”. Whoops!