This is the blog of another broad abroad. First, I wrote about my daily humiliations as a gaijin in Osaka, Japan. Then I wrote about re-acclimating to life in New York City. Next, I started writing about my daily humiliations in Ireland, which I’ve experienced while getting my Master’s in Creative Writing at Trinity College Dublin. With the Master’s course nearly done, it’s time to move on again. Now I live in a small town on Italy’s west coast, making a go of life as a freelance travel writer and finishing my novel. Four countries in three years? I must be crazy. Come join the serial expat fun.
Wait … you eat your what?
My pigeon. “I eat my pigeon” refers to a Japanese language mistake I made about a month and a half into my time in Japan.
What were you trying to say?
“My hat – table!” One night I forgot my hat on a table at Britannia, a “British pub” in my neighborhood. Of course, the proper thing to say to the staff when I ran back inside was “Excuse me – I forgot my hat!” but my Japanese was so poor that the only thing I could think of to say was “my hat – table!” … or what I thought was “my hat – table.”
I dashed into the pub, blurting ““私のハト食べる!” to the puzzled staff, snatched my hat and dashed back out - quite pleased with myself. I had just learned how to denote possession and I knew that many words in English could be used in Japanese, such as “ice cream” (pronounced aisu kur-ee-mu) and “card” (pronounced kaa-do). “Hat” and “table” are not such words. “Taberu” means “to eat” and “hato” means “pigeon.” I eat my pigeon.
You dork. Did you ever figure out how to say “Excuse me – I forgot my hat”?
Yes; “すみません – 帽子を忘れた!”
I have no idea what you just wrote. How many languages do you speak, anyway?
English is my native language, but since my parents are immigrants from Italy and Guatemala, I grew up trilingual. My Italian is stronger than my Spanish. Then, when I moved to Japan, I was determined to learn Japanese. In February of 2009, I passed the 3-kyuu Japanese Language Proficiency Test, which puts me at about early Intermediate Level. This should, in no way, suggest that I speak Japanese.
In Japan, I was paid to speak English so at work and with friends, English was the drug of choice. Japanese was the language of commerce and study. In Ireland, I spoke English that, by the end, had picked up some unseemly Irish syntax. In Italy, I conduct my life in Italian. If the dialogue seems a little wonky some times, it’s because I’m amusing myself by giving you a literal translation.
For more red-faced expatriate fun, follow: