Wednesday, 9 June 2010

An international evening

Last night, as I often do, I went to the local government run volunteer Japanese classes for foreigners. Our teacher couldn't make it so our group opted to chat among ourselves rather than divide between other groups.  
 It's refreshingly international and  egalitarian;  age, socio-economic background, length of time in Japan, level of education  and even nationality  go by the wayside as people are there with the common purpose to improve Japanese.

The Cantonese Chinese high school student has very good daily Japanese - her classes make no allowance for the fact that she has been in the country only two years -  but she doesn't have the same command of formal Japanese as the Vietnamese woman, with a much smaller functional vocab,  who has been here less time but works in office.  My competence in formal Japanese is not so good (I actively avoid using it)  however I have been here long enough to be able  to understand more than most there about Japanese customs etc and things about Tokyo or Japan.  

Last night  I helped the high school student with her English homework - in a mix of Japanese and English.  (Learning a fourth language when already struggling with a third is tough going.)  Afterwards she was chatting to a newly wed Vietnamese woman accompanied by her Japanese husband, who was at the class for the first time,  in a mix of Cantonese and Japanese.   The newly wed couple speak a mix of English, Japanese and Vietnamese at home.  He works in an office in central Tokyo, she has been here a week. The Vietnamese office worker was giving them a rundown on all things Vietnamese in Tokyo.     A mid twenties northern Chinese man (who also speaks Korean and some English)  is busy studying for the proficiency test (which I forgot to register for)  and was comparing grammar points in a mix of Mandarin and Japanese with the high school girl.    Usually there are Koreans in our group as well, sometimes Mongolians, Thai, Nepalese, Bangladeshi, Taiwanese, HK - ese, Indonesians, Indians.  Mostly Asian and mostly young - younger than me anyway ;)

It's always cheerful and friendly.  Sometimes tea and snacks are provided.  People with electric dictionaries, lend them to the people without, and there is always exchange of information.  It's a very positve side to the internationalisation that that many Japanese nationalists abhor.

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