As if I weren’t there

Talking behind someone’s back is not very good form. But it would seem to me that talking in front of someone as if they weren’t there is probably worse and pretty rude.

Of course this is just my opinon.

In a recent proseminar class, one of my students responded to a classmate during a discussion on “Differance” by Jacque Derrida, and referenced something I had just said by refering to me as “he”. Now, I am not one to be referred to in the third person when I’m in the room, so I had to comment, “Did she just call me ‘he‘?”

Hahahah. Anyway, this is a good student. She is dilligent, performs well and is generally very polite, and I am positive that she wasn’t even trying to be rude. So I made the remark, not to embarrass her, but to point out that some people–including me–find it rude when treated in the third person in their presence. Were I to refer to someone in this way, I would feel like I was talking about them as if they were not there, i.e. invisible or unacknowledged. This is similar to talking to someone in a language that another person present doesn’t understand. When I speak in Japanese in front of others–like with M or any other Japanese national who doesn’t speak English–I always explain what we are talking about to the non-speakers who are present. I do this even when M and I are shopping and talking in front of a salesperson who’s helping us. If I’m with a friend who speaks English, I will always speak in English. If they speak in Japanese, I will either explain to the non-speaker, or ask the Japanese speaker to switch to English. It is just too rude for me to talk as if the other person was not there.

Perhaps I am being too sensitive. But I wonder if this has to do with being a minority in the US. When I grew up, I found myself in many situations in which “mainstream” people talked about me or my family in our presence as if we didn’t exist–and for all intents and purposes, a few decades ago, in a more unenlightened society, we really didn’t exist. Asian youths today may not have experienced this–or at least not as much as the previous generation–and you would be lucky, for it is not a very good feeling. I know people who switch languages intentionally–from English to Japanese–so others will not understand them. How rude is that?!? I will remind them that if you don’t want some people to know what’s being said, then talk about it when they are not around, not in their presence.

Anyway, I hope I didn’t make this student feel too awkward–because as I said, I’m positive she didn’t mean to be rude. Do you think I was mean?.

2007.11.09–0:35, 3.18

Going unconscious

There is just too much work. They should have an anti-over-worked-teacher law on the books. I am exhausted. I just finished grading the midterms for my readings in modern Japanese course. Today was the J-Lit in Translation midterm, so I have a brand new stack of exams and essays in front of me. And I just finished making the Literary Japanese midterm for tomorrow, which means another stack.

Not only that, I had to take an online exam yesterday–or was it two days ago? The past two weeks have been a blur. Anyway, I had to read some online material on Human Subject Testing. Yes, you’d be surprised what we do in Japanese language and literature these days. Actually, I am involved in a research project with my colleagues and part of the research requires that we take surveys on the efficacy of our product–a Japanese language textbook. Unfortunately, giving surveys constitute “human subject testing.”

So I had to read this thing called the Belmont Report and a few other online “courses” so we don’t abuse the people we survey… or something like that. I end up staying up all night because my colleague tells me on Tuesday that she has to submit paperwork by Wednesday on the primary researchers, including evidence of completion of the course. I delve into a series of online readings and take a series of online quizzes. Bleary-eyed and exhausted, I finish around 4:30 AM. Luckily, I pass…

… just barely. 75% is passing and I got 78%. I figure I took the course in one sitting and passed it in one attempt, so it’s not too bad. Sure, the score isn’t great, but I can now test human subjects. Hahahahhahaaa.Sounds kinda scary, don’t you think?

So like I was saying. I’ve got all this other shit to do right in the middle of the semester, with midterms and papers literally adhering themselves to my body. And all I can think about is the next J-dorama I’m missing.

I think I’m gonna pass out…Someone catch me.

2007.11.04–1:01, 5.29


Recently, I wrote a bit about how English is difficult for many Japanese. I thought I’d respond to some of the (edited) comments I received.

There are so many different shades of “fluent” that the more proficient I become at Japanese, the more I know what I actually don’t know. If I were to just transplant myself and live here forever (Japan), I think I would need my wife to translate things for me, too (even though I could function quite well on my own, as is the case with your wife, it’s the juicy drama that kills me).
Posted 10/26/2007 2:58 AM by Smart_Bad

Ah, the intelligent man. Indeed, I’ve been trying to learn Japanese since 1972. That’s, what? 25 years? And I swear, I too feel as though the more I learn, the more I realize how much more I have to go. Japanese is wide and deep. As for your Japanese, understanding the juicy dramas will come in time.

there is the research on how we have trouble learning languages after about age twelve or so. or do you think it is more than that?
Posted 10/25/2007 1:02 PM by lightpinksheep

Yes, I think the two hemispheres of the brain completely separate–except for the corpus callosum that connects them. When the brain is still one big lump, information is freely and rapidly exchanged throughout the brain, so language learning–or rather acquisition–is easier. I think that’s the explanation. But as far as Japanese are concerned, learning English goes beyond this. I’ve know people from Japan who have lived in the states for over 50 years and they still never learned English. It is definitely a mystery to me.

My mother has lived in the United States for over thirty years now and has spent most of it working as a registered nurse in the South. Her English is reasonable, but she still has difficulty understanding movies. I’m not sure if it’s accents, slang, uncommon vocabulary, or just listening comprehension, but she has trouble keeping up. The only exception is when we turn on English subtitles in which case she has no problems (I think her reading comprehension is much better and faster than listening). Oh, and she has no problem with medical dramas as well.
Posted 10/25/2007 1:55 AM by SunJun

My wife is not Japanese but her first time in the US was after she married me. When we rent DVD’s, we enable the English subtitles function. When there are no subtitles I translate for her. I’m not sure why English is so hard for Japanese. My mother has been here for 40 years and she still has trouble once in a while.
Posted 10/24/2007 11:15 PM by SammyStorm2

I think working in the US would make a significant difference in one’s speaking abilities. My mother had virtually no English skills until she went to work in an environment where she had to use English everyday. While it was far from perfect, she could understand much more than before. Or at least she seemed to. It was hard to tell if she really understood the Cosby Show, but she laughed at all the right moments. As for M, she also uses the subtitles function, I have learned. When I was running on the treadmill in the basement, the Captions were always on. I’d get off and turn off the Captions because it blocks the lower part of the screen. Can’t read the box score, you know? But the next day, the Captions were back on. What gives? It took me a while to figure out that M was turning it on to watch the Food Channel, or Travel Channel as she exercised. After we catch up on last year’s Heroes, I’m hoping to use the Captions function for this years show. Then I could be a pinch hitter, so to speak. I would explain the parts that were particularly fast or slangy (read: difficult), but leave the rest to the Captions.

Wait a minute…you’re married? Wasn’t it a few months ago that you were infatuated with PW?
Oops, sorry…forgot to introduce myself. I’m a new reader; didn’t mean to jump into the fray with such an accusatory opening, but I just got curious.

Posted 10/26/2007 12:38 AM by amazngrace

New readers are always welcome! So its no big deal if you get mixed up a bit at times. It probably has to do with my writing style and many readers know a lot about me, so I might skim past a lot of the details. Anyway, Yes, I’m married, and have been for seven years. In fact, this is my second go-round. PW was a young lady many of my peers had a crush on back in the 1980s when we were in college. When I first saw the model/TV personality, Marianne, I immediately thought of PW. They don’t look exactly the same, but that’s who I’d point to as a referent. I think Marianne is taller, but I’m pretty sure PW is much smarter.

2007.11.02–1:15, 6.53
2007.11.03–0:46, 3.95