Today, my daughter forwarded some interview questions from her friend. It was rather long. Since I had made an effort in typing the answers, I might as well share it here. So, here it goes.
- Why do you travel there?
I came to Japan to accompany my husband who has been posted by his company to work in Tokyo. I’ve lived here for more than a year. 10 years ago, I also lived in a different part of Japan for about 20 months.
- How is the culture different from your original culture?
Japan has a very complex culture. It’s not easy to understand it especially if we don’t speak their language. They are very punctual, very hardworking and look down on lazy people, and very clean too. Cleaning the school or office is everyone’s responsibility. Even teachers are involved in cleaning up the school.
Japanese remove their shoes upon entering their homes, just like Malays but they take it even further. At school, children must bring a different set of shoes to be used only inside the school. Outside shoes cannot be used inside the school. For visitors, slippers are provided at the school entrance. Children at schools have a specific cleaning time. They are also required to brush teeth after lunch.
Shoes must also be removed when entering a fitting room in a shop/department store. In some changing rooms, high heels are provided so that we could see the length of the pants/skirts/dresses when wearing high heels. Even more extreme, in some fitting rooms, face covers are provided, so that when we try on the clothes, we would not dirty them with our make-up.
These are just a few examples of the cultural differences.
- What are the challenges that you confront as you try to communicate and understand their language?
Learning a new language is not easy. Japanese are written using 3 forms of writing. Hiragana, Katanana and Kanji. Hiragana and Katakana are not so hard to learn, but Kanji is very hard. Most road signs, food labels, medicine description are in Kanji. I rely a lot on Google Translate app. I usually scan the writing using my phone, and then get it translated into English. The translation might not be accurate, but that’s the best solution I have so far.
One clinic required me to bring a translator along because they didn’t have staff that could speak English. Fortunately, a friend volunteered to accompany me and be the interpreter.
In order to drive in Japan, Malaysian drivers are allowed to used International Driving License only during the first year of our stay. After that, we need a Japanese driving licence. I have to take a driving test where everything is conducted in Japanese. I understand probably only half of what the instructors say. I had failed my test three times.
4. What do you feel when you first talk to them?
I don’t really understand this question. Do you want to know how I feel every time I talk to a Japanese? Well, it depends on the situation.
If I know they can speak English, I will not worry at all.
On the other hand, if I’m not sure, I’ll try to communicate with my limited Japanese knowledge and resort to pointing and sign language when necessary and also use some English words.
Sometimes, I also use the Google Translate app. Type in English, get it translated by the app and then show it to the person concerned.
- Your reaction and their reaction when both sides don’t understand each other?
I will just give up after trying all of the above. That person who is talking to me might go and find his colleague or friend to help us out.
6.What do you do to learn their language? Do you find it easy or not?
I learn mainly by attending a class twice a week. Altogether, I spend three and a half hours in class and besides that, I might do homework. Sometimes, I try to watch Japanese TV programme, but the story must be interesting enough to make me finish watching from beginning till the end.
7. Do you sense any improvement within yourself?
I have some improvement in reading Hiragana and Katakana but I’m still rather slow at writing. I still do not memorise all of them, I keep on referring to the charts.
8. Do you have funny or interesting experience in the learning process?
Last week, I had to go to a clinic and could not attend my Japanese class. I thought it would be a good practice to write in Japanese. However, after I had sent the message to my teacher, I realised that I had made some mistakes. I used “gomen kudasai” when it should have been “gomen nasai”.I thought “gomen kudasai” was the more polite form of gomen nasai when they actually meant something else and to be used in a completely different situation. 😀
9. Phrases and daily sentences that you know? (kita harap arifah boleh bagi 5 and above onegaishimasu!)
i.Chotto matte kudasai. Please wait a moment.
ii. Sumimasen, _____ doko desu ka? Excuse me, where is ______?
iii. _________ arimasu ka? Do you have ________?
iv. Ikura desu ka? How much is it?
v. Hai, daijobu desu. Yes, it’s alright.
10. Is there any similarities between your language and their language?
A few similarities:
- In Malay, we end a question with kah or ke and in Japanese it ends with ka.
- In Malay, it’s considered impolite to address a second person as awak or kamu especially when they are older or in a higher position. In Japanese, the word anatawa is rarely used either. It is better to address the person we are speaking to by their name with the title –san. If they are teachers, doctors, or instructors, they are usually addressed as Sensei.