Posted in English as a Second Language, Japanese Language, linguistics

How many languages do you speak?

Being able to speak a language is subjective. I have many Japanese friends who speak beautiful English, but do not consider themselves to be English speakers. (This could just be Japanese humility though and not their true opinion: 本音 ほんねん vs. 建前. たてまえ

For example, I took a year of Latin and remember the basic sentence structure and vocabulary words. I do not, however, consider myself a Latin speaker. The same holds true for the other languages I have studied: Old English, Middle English, Spanish, American Sign Language, and Japanese Sign Language. 

On the other hand, I have studied the Japanese language for years and still have many limitations, but have a proficiency level enough to work, live, and get in and out of trouble in the language. I use Japanese daily, occasionally dream in it, and while I still have much to learn, I do consider myself a Japanese speaker.

What about you? How many languages do you speak? 

They are not languages, but I am fluent in Pig Latin and Gibberish, like native speaker level.

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Posted in English as a Second Language, Japanese Culture, Japanese Language, Teaching Adventures

Homophone Mishappenings

I was teaching a Mommy and Me English as a Second Language class to a lovely young mother and her two-year-old son. The lesson’s topic was body parts. Not wanting to use Japanese to explain the meaning, I would touch the location of the vocabulary word and then move such anatomy in a goofy way. This game was quite popular with the two-year-old, and I was feeling on fire as a teacher, for we were in that beautiful intersection of learning, engagement, and genuine joy.

I said, “Touch your chin,” and proceeded to place my finger on my mentum; however, Japanese-toddler logic mandated not the mentum as modeled, but what he very knew to be his chin. You see, “chin-chin” (ちんちん) is the Japanese kid word for penis.

“From Head To Toe” is a spectacular book to teach body parts and easily incorporates Kinesthetic learning.

He promptly grabbed his groin and proceeded to waggle it in the previously playful way. I started to correct/ apologize to the mom, but she was lost in a full guffaw, so I felt permission to laugh too.

It is a lesson that I will never forget, for it is true what the dear Anna Leonowens has said, “If you become a teacher, by your pupils, you’ll be taught.” (I highly recommend the 1956 version of the King and I. [♫ Getting to know you. Getting to know all about you…♪])

Now, as a mom of a toddler and further into my teaching English and learning Japanese journey, I appreciate this memory even more. I can see how my son is interpreting his world and the role that homophones play in inter-lingually and even within one language, as in the Homophone Horrors happening.

What are some inter-lingual homophone mishappenings you have encountered in your life?

Vocabulary 単語 

)

penis= ちんちん

chin=あご

ear(s)=みみ

mouth=くち

nose=はな

face=かお

)

Works Cited

“Oscar Hammerstein II Quotes.” BrainyQuote, Xplore, http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/oscar_hammerstein_ii_402922.

(I am aware that the above citation is not entirely in MLA format. I’m researching how to do hanging indents on WordPress. If you could teach me, or link to a source, I’d be grateful.)