Thursday, January 24, 2013

We Lied

The Truth...
Every other Thursday night I teach an adult English class. 
For the first hour, the lovely women I talk with tell everyone about something that has happened to them as of late. For the second hour, we do a small grammar lesson, before I introduce the theme for the evening, accompanied by a worksheet and other supplemental items. I have done everything from, travel to music, to books, movies the different cultures within America, the TV show FRIENDS, to even what Obama stands for. My latest idea came when I decided, back in December, that I wanted to give these ladies a little more speaking time. I came up with the idea of Speed Dating Conversation. I explained to them what speed dating was, then enlisted the help of some other foreign friends. We were going to talk for 10 minutes, then switch. The only rule was that my students had to initiate the conversation. We foreigners do that all too well. I wanted these lovely ladies to be in control of the conversation. 

When I did this lesson last December, it was a massive success. The ladies loved it, and were speaking solely in English for a solid 40 minutes. I decided I wanted to do it again this month, but with an unintended twist.

My good friend Sayaka is a Japanese native, but speaks English as if she flew in from New Zealand yesterday. Johnny Dip is my favorite acta. Love you Saya! 
Friday morning she was flying to Thailand for a friend's wedding, and since I live closer to the airport, she was staying with me Thursday night. She and two other of my very generous friends, Kris and Chris, agreed to come to my adult class so we could have another round of Speed Dating Conversation. The ladies in my class love to talk with foreigners, and Sayaka really could pass as one, so we decided to try. 
We spent as solid hour of our Wednesday work day twisting the truth and coming up with a back-story. 

The Lie...
We said... 
 -her parents were from Japan but moved to NZ where she grew up
-she speaks no Japanese; her parents tried to teach her but it was a lost cause
-she is currently visiting family in Tokyo
-she and I met at a party
-her name is Sara

Spinning and selling the lie wasn't the tough part. Not sure what that says about us...
The tricky part was making sure Sayaka didn't react to ANY of their Japanese. 
We even decided she wouldn't say her own last name, and made sure to English-ify the way she said, "Tokyo" and other Japanese cities. 

Our first test came within 5 minutes of being there when the women asked what she did for a living. She said she worked in PR (true) in Auckland (false)
The women weren't sure what PR was in Japanese. 
Sayaka bit her tongue while they women conversed with each other, whipping out dictionaries and discussed. It's koho, btw. Sayaka responded with, "Oh that's good to know, I'll have to remember that. " 
I chuckled, and took note to nominate her for an Oscar.

The class went on. 
Kris and Chris were in on the joke. 
Right before class finished, we told them the truth. 
Kris took a video as we revealed the truth. 

Unfortunately, this video is only from the first few seconds of what was then a 10-minute conversation. I have to say their reactions aren't all that exciting here, but they got more so as it became clear what we had done.
The lady in the scarf is my favorite. She wasn't listening when we said that Sara is actually Sakaya, so when Sayaka started speaking Japanese, the lady turned to the woman next to her and said, "Her Japanese is so good!!!" Which was then followed by, "Oh, she's a REAL Japanese!!!" We all laughed.

After the big reveal, we asked if any of them knew that Sayaka was really a fluent Japanese speaker. A few said they did. I was shocked to hear that. Sayaka did a GREAT job of not reacting to any Japanese and looking confused when she was spoken to in Japanese. Oscar material I tell ya. 
The ladies explained that they knew she actually spoke Japanese because she looked Japanese...
That took us all by surprise. 

All these lovely ladies have traveled, so I was surprised to hear such an opinion.
I was curious to hear they didn't think it was possible for a first-generation Japanese immigrant to not have learned their parent's language. I come from a town that is very high in Japanese-American citizens, and many of them never learn Japanese. Perhaps I'm just used to the idea of America's culture blend, and forget that it is not as prevalent here in Japan, so these ladies would never have had the opportunity to witness the same thing. 

We tried to explain that there are many people that are from one country, grew up in another, and don't speak the language "of their face" if you will. I know of a few other JETs who are ethnically Japanese but grew up in an English speaking country who, at times, really struggle living in Japan. "You look Japanese, but you don't speak Japanese?! How is that possible?!"Is a tough concept to grasp if you don't witness it all that often.

After class, Sayaka, Kris and Chris headed to Starbucks for a late-night hot chocolate, my treat to them for coming and talking to a few old ladies. 

Thanks again guys!

"And the winner is Sayaka, for the best native acting like a foreigner!"

[The Latest]

Must Read: North Korea Plans Nuclear Tests Targeted at US...The Guardian. No bueno.
Google Search: Lance Armstrong Oprah Interview
Tune: I Knew You Were Trouble By Taylor Swift
Accomplishment: Executing my stations lesson.
Obsessions: New Nivea hand lotion.

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