-This is only my opinion. I’m so sorry, in advance!!!
I have been asked why some Japanese people get embarrassed when speaking English. If you have talked with some Japanese people who are not very good at speaking English, you would agree with the question and say that you don’t expect Japanese people to speak English fluently. The answer is that “we are not embarrassed, but intimidated by you”. They dare to say “I’m embarrassed” because they are too scared to say “You scare me.”
There are three major reasons.
1. When talking with people from foreign countries, many Japanese people get frustrated by rudimentary Japanese. So, most of us can’t help believing that we have to speak fluently when speaking in English.
2. Faces seem to be very fierce when you say “What?”
3. People from foreign countries don’t seem to even try to understand what I mean.
The first reason:
Most Japanese people haven’t seen adults who speak in rudimentary Japanese. Since we don’t know how to speak in rudimentary language, we can’t help feeling we have to speak fluently, even in English.
Can you imagine this? If you haven’t had neighbors who are not native or haven’t heard rudimentary English, you may still have some acquaintances that are not native speakers. Their English might be kind of strange and sometimes sound rude, but you are used to their way of talking. You don’t think they are strange or rude, do you? However, Japanese people can’t help feeling apprehensive, thinking that we may say something rude and you may get angry.
Here's an example:
One of my aunts went abroad for the first time and met a woman there. My aunt doesn’t speak any foreign languages and the woman spoke rudimentary Japanese. The woman said my aunt looked a lot like her mother, and called my aunt “Mama-san”. “Mama” is from the English word, and “san” is kind of Mr. and Mrs. The woman obviously said it with affection, but my aunt became very angry. Japanese people say “Mama-san” when referring to a barkeeper, and my aunt is biased against that kind of woman.
The problem is that we are not used to talking with people from foreign countries.
The second reason:
Would you say “What?”, if I say your face is very fierce when you say it?
Frankly speaking, your face is sometimes frightening to me.
I often hear that Japanese people are expressionless, while your face is too expressive. Your smile is great, but some other expressions are a little bit terrifying sometimes. The problem is that we are not used to talking with people from foreign countries.
The third reason:
Since Japanese language is so different from English, learning English is very difficult for Japanese. Schools tell students that “yes” = “hai”, and “no” = “iie”, but in particular situations these words often exchange meanings with each other. This means that English words “yes” and “no” (and other words in English) may be very complicated to understand for Japanese people. Also, English has many sounds that Japanese people can’t catch. The coup de grace is that you speak too fast to follow! When speaking in English, I feel like I’m an idiot and you are becoming angry.
Among Japanese people, it is the listener’s responsibility to understand what the speaker means; while in English, it is the speaker’s responsibility to make what you say understood. When Japanese people speak English, they are trying to overcome a lot of great difficulties but you don’t seem to even try to understand what we mean at all. Even in English conversation schools located in Japan, I have heard this problem from friends many times. They commented that teachers who were native English speakers didn’t try to understand what they meant at all. They were not be able to communicate these difficulties to the teacher because they didn’t know what to say in English.
I know that my problem is that I’m not used to talking with people from foreign countries, but I’m still, to be honest, very nervous.
Koir, thank you!
I went to see cherry blossoms and Odawara Castle in Odawara city. This castle was constructed in 1417, and its ownership has changed several times.
Around the Warring States and Azuchi-Momoyama periods (1467-1600), there were a lot of chatelaines called “daimyoh” in Japan. They were fighting for supremacy. This sounds similar to the U.K.’s history, the one difference being Japan had Tennoh(Emperor) since the 7th century. You might know of the word “Shohgun”; this title was given to “the leader of a samurai clan” (the winner among chatelaines) by the Emperor. Even so, Tennoh’s authority has been artificial.
Anyway, Japan has a lot of beautiful castles. Come and take a look at these cool donjons!