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Amparo Bertram

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07:22 pm: Strike "interpreter" off the list...
The former English Salon has been remade into "Everyone's Salon." It is now a place for people interested in any foreign culture to gather and chat. Today was the first meeting, and I was asked to come to translate between English and Japanese, since there would be a number of people present who knew either one or the other (to some extent) but not both. The meeting would go from 1:30-4pm.

When I was first told about this, I had heard that we would watch a movie and then chat for about half an hour afterward. That sounded reasonable. I arrived to discover that, apparently, the movie idea had been scrapped, and we would chat for practically the entire time. Oh joy.

The topic was "holidays." People were given a handout with the national holidays of the home countries of all the people attending (or at least who had planned to attend, though some didn't make it). There were five of us from the US, one woman from Australia, one from Taiwan, and the rest of the foreigners were from China. The room was packed, with around 35 people who managed to show up. We tried to have a discussion...but it was hard to share in such a large group with three different languages flying around.

I did the best I could to translate between English and Japanese. My speaking skills, however, are not the greatest. Goodness knows what it sounded like to the native Japanese speakers in the room. It was much easier when someone would volunteer to say something in Japanese and I could translate that into English.

After about an hour of that painful mess, we stopped for snacks. At that point things perked up. After snacks, we broke up into three smaller groups in different areas of the room, and that went over great. I wound up mostly chatting (in Japanese) with a Chinese guy who I believe came to Japan to attend college. We talked about a number of topics. He said that they study English starting in middle school, but that they only study it to pass a test in it, and they never get any opportunities to speak it. (He had a notebook handy where he would write down any English phrases he heard me say.) He asked a number of questions about the US, particularly about marriage. One question he asked was quite interesting: "I read in a book that people are very free in America. I wanted to ask if that was true...some authors base their books on facts, but some don't."

After a while, a Japanese lady next to him joined in and asked questions about what it was like learning Japanese and what we found difficult. We talked for a while about that. We all agreed that keigo (polite language) was very hard.

At the end of the meeting, I was given another bag of cookies as a reward for helping out.

When I got home, I spent a while putting a bunch of my journal entries in memories. So if there's anyone who wants to, say, find out what there is to do in Kyoto, you can check out the "Kyoto" section for my reports on what I've done. (The "Chiba" section includes Tokyo and anything else in the vicinity.) Just be warned that a lot of the more fannish entries are locked.



[User Picture]
Date:May 21st, 2005 04:38 am (UTC)
I like how they always give you cookies for stuff...like little interpreter treats!

Buffy: "Whenever Giles sends me on a mission, he always says "please." And afterwards I get a cookie."
[User Picture]
Date:May 21st, 2005 05:44 am (UTC)

Everyone's salon...what a great concept

What a great opportunity for intercultural sharing. I love this idea. Imagine if there were a place we could go in town and hear several different languages, talk about different cultural customs, eat, and have time to share at a more personal level. Is it done on a monthly basis? I think thirty-five is a great number of people to show up. Is this promoted by the city, the school, or a club, or what? Someone must sponsor it, or where would the cookies come from?
[User Picture]
Date:May 21st, 2005 12:53 pm (UTC)

Re: Everyone's salon...what a great concept

Is it done on a monthly basis?

Yep. Next month's meeting will be hosted by one of the Chinese ladies, so we'll learn about various Chinese culture things. Her father will be coming to give some kind of exercise(?) demonstration. (I wasn't quite sure what that part was all about.)

Is this promoted by the city, the school, or a club, or what?

It's the international exchange club. Some of their money comes from the Japanese attendees, who have to pay a modest fee (around $5 or so).

At previous salon meetings, I got book gift certificates instead of cookies. (Book gift certificates are really common ways to repay someone in Japan. I think that's an excellent tradition.) I really appreciated that.
[User Picture]
Date:May 21st, 2005 05:48 am (UTC)
I did the best I could to translate between English and Japanese.

Oh, how I feel your pain. Would it help if I told you that it gets easier with time?
[User Picture]
Date:May 21st, 2005 12:56 pm (UTC)
Would it help if I told you that it gets easier with time?

It might...if I ever talked enough for it to make a difference. By the next time I'm asked to be an interpreter, I'll probably have gotten rusty again. <sigh> I know it's my own fault for never talking, but I just don't ever have the urge to say anything.
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