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Abuse the local language or abuse the international language?

This article details the travails of Fred as he suffers through a Canadian woman abusing the Japanese language and discusses how Westerners abuse Japanese, Japanese abuse English, and people like to announce the languages they can speak.

Fred and I were nursing our drinks the other night in a crowded place in Yokohama. We were there for a less than stimulating meeting, and Fred was having a good moan, which is the term he uses instead of complaining. Fred may have picked up this Briticism, or perhaps even a Commonwealth expression, in the U.K. or somewhere else, but he really seemed to like using it. Perhaps it is human nature to be attracted to new words and new languages, and love using them. If the words are not too pretentious and are comprehensible, what is the harm?

He wasn't moaning about anything specific; he's just has a bad week. Fred was moaning about a Canadian woman he had met at a party a few nights ago. She was talking about going to the iki. He did not have a clue as to what the iki was, so he asked. She looked at him with disdain and said, "That's a Japanese word. It means train station. Didn't you know that?" Fred was rendered speechless. By the time he was ready to speak again, she was gone, which Fred was grateful for. Iki actually means a variety of things in Japanese, but train station is not one of them. The correct work is eki, which Fred had learned years ago, along with thousands of other Japanese words.

He was an equal opportunity moaner, moaning in distress about the idiocisms of all nationalities, languages, and creeds. I had never heard anyone use the word idiocism until I met Fred. Fred explained it like this, "Now, these people may or may not be idiots, but I don't want to call anyone an idiot, not even if they are. Instead, I prefer to use the word idiocism for the idiotic things they do." I don't know if idiocism is an actual word or not, but I deliberately did not check. If he was not right, I didn't want to know.

On other occasions, I had heard him moan about neighborhood cleaning starting at 6:00 on Sunday mornings, the smoke which made some restaurants and coffee shops into hazy headache creators, the lack of garbage cans and benches, the never ending ceremonies that Fred had endured when he was a teacher, the never ending workdays that Fred had endured when he worked for an insurance company, and the nonsense the Japanese endured without significant protest. Fred often went baaaa when he moaned about that. He strongly felt that moaning, which was the first step toward protest and change, was very important.

Anyway, now Fred was on a roll, moaning about Westerners who couldn't speak Japanese but peppered their sentences with Japanese words and Japanese who couldn't speak English but peppered their sentences with English. I tried to calm Fred down. "Fred, these people are just unhappy. They want to speak the local language or the international language, and they can't. So they do what they can."

Fred replied, "If I meet another Westerner who can't speak Japanese and has to tell me about all the other languages they speak..."

I smiled, "Fred, they actually may not speak any of them very well. They are just feeling left out."

Fred started again, "They should stop decorating their speech with words from languages they don't speak then. These people should try to learn Japanese or English and use it."

I responded, "But it won't happen. Many of the Westerners are not here long enough or don't try hard enough. Most of the Japanese aren't obsessive enough to stick with English and try to use it. Be happy about that or we wouldn't be able to take three steps in any direction without someone wanting to practice their English on us."

"You just can't win," said Fred and then he ordered another drink.

Article Tags: Local Language, International Language, Moaning About, These People

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