Posts Tagged language exchange

May 14, 2004 – The worst word I know

Tonight I went to Hobgoblin pub in Shibuya. It is a pretty cool pub with a wide selection of food and drink. Everything is bilingual so it is popular among foreigners.

During the evening I was talking to different people in the crowd. An attractive young Japanese woman started talking to me in English. Let’s call her Keiko for the sake of the story. Keiko and I were discussing studying languages and noticed that usually the first words people want to learn in a new language are the “bad” words. She had an impressive knowledge of English curse words. I told her that I knew a few good ones in Japanese as well. She asked me to tell her the worst word I knew in Japanese.

Some time prior to this, The Penpal and I had the “what are the bad words in your language” conversation. We went through the usual ones, and then she taught me an absolute shocker. This particular word is not commonly heard anywhere, and is extremely rude.

I told Keiko that I knew a really, really bad word, but didn’t want to tell her what it was. This made her more curious. I tried to back out and tell her that she would likely be offended by the word. Keiko assured me that she wouldn’t be offended. I tried to change the subject. This make Keiko even more determined, and insisted that I tell her the word.

At this point I thought “why not”, leaned in and said the word into her ear. She instantly looked shocked, not just regular shocked, but shocked like someone had just slapped her grandmother.

“WHERE DID YOU LEARN THAT WORD!?” she asked incredulously. I told her that a Japanese friend had taught me the word. She still couldn’t believe that I had the nerve to say the word, and found the next excuse to leave the conversation.

To all of the travelers and language exchangers out there: when someone asks you to say the worst word you know in their language, don’t. Also, if you insist that someone tell you the worst word they know, don’t be shocked when it is worse than you expected.

No, I will not tell you what word it was. I learned my lesson already!

(almost complete rewrite of original post to add more detail)

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November 9, 2003 – Tongue Twisters

Original post

Language exchange in Yokohama today. I am meeting with an English grammar teacher who wants to improve her spoken English. I got to practice some Japanese, show off pics of Winnipeg, and exchanged tongue twisters. While she is practicing “How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood” and “She sells seashells by the seashore”, I will be trying out “namamugi namagome namatamago” and “tonari no kyaku wa yoku kaki kuu kyaku da”. I got pretty good at saying “namatamago” but everything else was very challenging.

2013 Update

She sells seashells by the seashore was one of my favourite teaching tools. In Japanese there is a sound for “she” but not “sea”. Walking through this slowly was good pronunciation practice. For more advanced students, I would use this to practice emphasizing certain words in a sentence. For example, I would ask “What does she sell by the seashore” and the student would respond “She sells seashells by the seashore.” with the emphasis on seashells. It was a bit cruel, but also a lot of fun.

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October 30, 2003 – Kill Bill is NOT a good date movie

Kill Bill!

(full rewrite from my original post to tell the story better)

During my first month in Japan I tried to find some people to practice Japanese with. At one of my many post work trips to the internet cafe, I signed up for a local language exchange website. After some back and forth conversation, I had both a meeting with a language exchange partner and a movie date for the same day in Yokohama. Conveniently I was working at Yokohama Nova, which reduced the amount of travel needed.

In the morning I met my language exchange partner. She was a housewife looking to improve her English as a hobby. We hung out at Starbucks and talked for a while. Things went well and we set up a future meeting.

Next stop was working at Yokohama Nova. One of my lessons had two giggly teenage girls. In the lesson they asked me what kind of girls I liked. Since Nova has some very strict rules about interacting with students and there were supervisors teaching in the next cubicle, I tried to avoid the question. I like to think that I was able to avoid the question casually and look professional while doing it. In reality I probably blushed and stammered.

After work I met up with my date at Yokohama station. She was a university student who was both very outgoing and very good at English. We started out by getting conveyor sushi in the station. We ate really good sushi and I even spoke Japanese a few times. Things were going well! When we finished dinner, my date took me to a discount movie ticket store that was a few minutes away from the theater. I didn’t know such a thing existed, and am not exactly sure the economics behind it, but any chance to avoid paying 1800 yen for a movie is a good thing.

A few days earlier I was in the Voice open conversation room at Kawasaki Nova. We were talking about movies and I mentioned that I was going to take a new female friend to see Kill Bill. At that point, my students explicitly warned me not to do that because Kill Bill was a terrible date movie. They said it was violent and cruel and we would have nothing to talk about after the movie. I explained that when I was talking about Kill Bill, my date said she was excited to see it because Lucy Liu was in the movie.

Apparently the date thought since Lucy Liu was in Charlie’s Angels that Kill Bill would be similar to Charlie’s Angels. I think it was during the first knife fight in the movie where she started to feel uncomfortable. By the end of the movie when The Bride was hacking her way through The Crazy 88s like a human blender, my date had resorted to covering her eyes and peeking from time to time. On the way back to the station we really didn’t have a lot to talk about and the walk back was awkward and mostly silent. I sent her a text later apologizing for the bloody movie and asking if she would like to hang out again sometime. I never heard from her again.
5 years of being off the market does not help someone who has little to no skill with the opposite sex at all. Also, when someone tells you strongly that a movie is NOT a good date movie you should really take the time to listen. They just might be right.

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