From the Mouths of Babes
There a girl among the ninensei students at one of my schools that I’ve really taken a liking to. She always tries her best to speak to me in English. Her English isn’t the best around, not by far. But she always tries, and that’s a huge plus in my book. She makes a lot of mistakes, but it’s usually pretty cute, like forgetting or misprouncing a word or leaving out entire parts of the sentence.
So imagine my surprise when she comes up to me one day in the library and says, out of nowhere, “Goddamned son of a bitch!” With a gleeful smile, no less.
Ok, where in the hell did she get this from? I KNOW it wasn’t from me. Last I checked, it wasn’t in the textbooks either. Well, that leaves only a few options left…
1. She’s been watching the English version of 24, which is in Japan. Possible.
2. She’s been listening to some gansta rap. But this isn’t the Ghetto School, so I really had no reason to believe that this cute, smiling 14 year old Japanese girl was listening to Juvenile, 50 Cent, Twista, or whatever the kids are into these days. Besides, if it had been gansta rap, wouldn’t she have said “motherfucker” instead? Ah, it’s a wonderful world we live in.
3. She’d gotten ahold of another one of those lovely “colloquial” English books.
The correct answer turned out to be 3, as she produced the book, and the page on which “Goddamned son of a bitch!” was located. The girl has a somewhat concerned look on her face. “Did I get the prounciation right? Did I surprise you?”
Understatement, meet Japanese schoolgirl. Charmed, I’m sure.
Her prounciation was actually decent (am I supposed to compliment this?), but I told her to please, never ever use those words again. She thumbed through the book to find some more “everyday” English… a lot of it was actually normal (“Man, I’m starving today!”), some of it was downright strange (“I need an ambulance, my leg’s been cut off” – this is everyday English?!) and some of it was again vulgar (“What a jackass!”). Suddenly my teacher’s “Hasta la vista, baby” doesn’t seem so weird anymore.
I asked where she picked up this book, and she told me she’d got it from right here in the school library. No. I expressed my disbelief, and she showed me the shelf from which she’d taken it. Sure enough, there was a missing gap just about the size of the book in question. That’s just…incredible. I wish my school library had books that would teach me how to say “Goddamned son of a bitch!” in a foreign language. All we ever did was rifle though old National Geographic’s in the hopes of uncovering some saggy, uncovered tribal tits. What REALLY amazes me though is these books – who makes these things? How do you go about making a “Conversational English” book and then be like, “Oh yeah, don’t forget ‘Goddamned son of a bitch!’ Oh, and ‘I need an ambulance, my leg’s been cut off’ is essential too?” I just don’t get it.
Furthermore, how do I get in on this business?
Most Japanese people learn English for at least 6 years. Some of them have at least basic conversational abilities, but very few actually have the confidence to try it out on a real live foreigner. Maybe that’s a good thing. If you are ever touring around in Japan, and you pull some random schoolgirl aside to ask for directions to a temple or some such thing, you just might get an answer in the form of “take a left at the next street you rancid piece of shit.” I don’t know about you, but if this ever happened to me (and I hadn’t been properly prepared for it as I am now), I think I would just fall over brain-dead trying to compute what had just happened.
I mean, how many times in one’s life will you have a cute 14-year old Japanese girl casually stroll up to you and say “Goddamned son of a bitch!” I feel kinda special.