Engaging Language

“Sumimasen, kore wa kome pan desu ka?”


“Excuse me, is this rice bread?”

My first sentence constructed in Japanese.  It wasn’t a prefab sentence.  I figured out how to say this sentence so I could ask about rice bread, which I thought would be ubiquitous in Japan.  I was wrong.  Many places do not even have rice bread.  It is where they refer to meals with derivatives of “gohan” or rice: Asagohan (morning rice/breakfast), hirugohan (midday rice/lunch), and bangohan (evening rice/dinner).  I just thought it would be easier to track down products made with rice, especially traditional Japanese foods such as tempura and other breaded foods.

Language is about discovering our world and how we can communicate those discoveries with each other.

My first sentence was constructed out of necessity, but it turns out it was much more than a sentence.  It was a small step in the right direction towards grasping the language.  I’ve seen advertisements for products that guarantee that you’ll learn a language in ten days and so forth.  A lot of these ads show up because of the cookies tracking you and your computer.  Just like any advertisement, there is some truth to the matter, and some not-truth.  It got me thinking.  Language is so much more than grammar and usage and the ability to perform the proper acrobatics with your mouth and tongue.  Culture and experience of the daily commonplace activities provide a foundation that is capable of taking some of the edge and fear of learning a language.

Stagnant language is boring and counter productive.

Keep in mind that things change.  Even in a culture steeped in tradition, things change.  The words for meal are words that have been in use for a very long time and there is no reason to change them.  But, assuming that it tells you something about the culture can lead you astray.  It is a nice entry point for discussion and one of many steps in the discovery process.  Even in my native language, English, I encounter usage that challenges my canon; it is part of growing.  Curiosity is necessary for learning a language, whether it is your native tongue or something new.  Now get out there and discover something new about your world.  Make a mistake.  Do something right.  Make a friend.  Make an enemy.  Engage language.


About Matthew J. Durocher

Matthew Durocher is a graduate of Michigan Tech University. He acquired his BA in English along with a minor in Music Composition and a certificate in Writing in Spring 2012. His style is one of passion and musicality. One foot is firmly rooted in tradition while the other slides dangerously close to the clouds.
This entry was posted in Culture Shock, Food, Japan, Language and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Engaging Language

  1. ideasexplorer says:

    I like your idea. Language is not just grammar and words. They involve so much more, they represent our interpretation of the world, and grows and enriches itself with time. We should be open minded, accept and even contribute to this change.

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