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Wasted chance!

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Wasted chance!

Postby toni » Thu 09.08.2005 11:40 am

Today, while we had a lunch break (which usually lasts from 11:45 to 12:25), I was strolling down the streets of Tapiola, a part of the city of Espoo where my high school is located. After a while I saw Japanese tourists (and you'll never guess what they were doing...taking photos! :D ). Just for a sec I thought I'd go and have a chat with them, maybe ask "にほんじんですか?" as an opening question or something like that. But I didn't! Maybe because I didn't want to bother them much, but I still can't help feeling bad for wasting an excellent chance of talking with real-life Japanese people in Japanese! Aaarghh! :@
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RE: Wasted chance!

Postby MenomaMinx » Thu 09.08.2005 12:02 pm

don't kick yourself too hard. This kind of thing happens to the best of us, especially when involving the approaching of complete and total strangers.

About a week or so ago, I was at a new doctor's office. His name was spelled like the Ellis Island version of a Japanese name,with the u chopped off of the su ending, so I had the entire waiting room time as potential thinking of what to say time. when I actually got into the exam room, his Japanese accent that was unmistakably like Namie Amuro's {Okinawa accent}, which for me is one of the easiest Japanese accents to understand.

I could've talked to him in Japanese. In fact, after he found out I translate Japanese video games, he asked me to . I chickened out. I remembered that just because I could translate what I see in front of me, doesn't mean that the words I put together didn't inevitably come out incredibly rude.

so I told him that even though I could read it, I couldn't speak it on account of getting all the politeness levels confused.this confused him, and he proceeded to tell me a funny story about the USO in Japan. They would get up onstage and teach Japanese to the troops as part of one of the comedy acts. He said that all I needed to remember was alligator = arigatou -- which is exactly how the USO comedian taught it.

O. K., maybe not so funny on the second telling, but definitely funny told in a distinctive Okinawain accent while setting half naked on a table. Actually, probably anything would be funny sitting half naked on a table, just to keep from thinking about sitting half naked on a table ;-)
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RE: Wasted chance!

Postby Akuma » Thu 09.08.2005 5:50 pm

How can you guys tell when an Asian is Japanese, Chinese, Korea, etc...? I'm always worried that I might approach an Asian person who I think is Japanese, and possibly insult them by trying to speak Japanese.
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RE: Wasted chance!

Postby Mariya » Thu 09.08.2005 6:42 pm

Haha. Akuma, I'll tell you what it's like, making an idiot out of yourself. :@ Me and my mum were shopping in the supermarket, and since I HATE these trips I took a list of vocab to learn with me. When heading to the tills, I spotted a young (very Japanese looking) lady, and made my way to that till. I felt that my suspicions were confirmed when I saw her name tag, which read Yuki. Not knowing how to start a conversation (I'm way too shy..), I left my vocab list on the shopping that she was checking. She saw it, gave it to my mum and said..."I think you dropped this" with a smile.

:| Why didn't she start a conversation? I thought to myself, seeing as shes Japanese and that list had Japanese all over it! So I tried talking to her myself. I ask...are you Japanese? (My bad. It was pretty stupid to be so blunt, why not as where are you from?). She looked at me very briefly and said no, that she was from Hong Kong. I then ask if her name is Japanese (another stupid move. I KNEW it was Japanese...*slaps head*). She gave me a sick look, as though she were really offended, and told me to mind my own business, her name is her personal matter, why do I care, etc.

Jeez. I would have hoped thats a rare and good chance to practice my speaking skills. I've learnt a bit from that experience....NEVER assume someone is Japanese, no matter how much they look it. You could ruin someone's day. :o
Last edited by Mariya on Thu 09.08.2005 6:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Wasted chance!

Postby Datadog » Thu 09.08.2005 9:16 pm

How can you guys tell when an Asian is Japanese, Chinese, Korea, etc...? I'm always worried that I might approach an Asian person who I think is Japanese, and possibly insult them by trying to speak Japanese.


Something I always do is speak my native tongue first, to see if they can reply in the same language. With practice, you should be able to soon recognize their accent and be able to speak accordingly. I've yet to hold any conversations in Japanese yet, but I can always identify them by the accent.

Visually is a bit tougher because you may find yourself playing against stereotypes. Around where I live, I notice Japanese people tend to have lighter skin and higher eyebrows than the Chinese, and Chinese have lighter skin and higher eyebrows than Koreans. You often have to look for smaller details that reveal hints about their heritage, but once again, with practice, it should be no harder than telling the difference between blondes and brunettes. At least, that's the way they tell me it is.
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RE: Wasted chance!

Postby yankumi » Thu 09.08.2005 9:57 pm

I think perhaps asking someone にほんごをはなしますか (I hope that is correct) would be more polite than simply "are you Japanese?" The first implies you may want to talk with them in Japanese, the second could potentially seem prying when coming from a complete stranger--exactly why do you want to know? I am not sure how I would respond if someone approached me and maybe said are you Spanish/Italian/whatever nationality. Starting up a conversation with a complete stranger can be tricky no matter how polite your intentions are.
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RE: Wasted chance!

Postby lomagu » Fri 09.09.2005 5:24 am

I wish more people thought like DonnaP. I've been asked if I'm from about 50 different countries by various total strangers. It was mostly during my university days & when I was working in customer service.. I guess people are just curious. I suppose there's nothing really wrong with it, but I just think it's weird. Like, 'why do you want to know?' sort of thing. I'm used to people asking now, but the first time somone asked, I was a bit surprised.
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RE: Wasted chance!

Postby MenomaMinx » Fri 09.09.2005 6:58 am

In my experience, Chinese women can occasionally have rounder faces and a shorter chin. Normally, I'm terrible memorizing faces, but the reason I remember this one is because it similar to {the more pronounced in Chinese as it covers the entire jawline} the rounded chins you see a lot of Polish women with -- and my mom's family is almost entirely Polish.

Getting back to the accent, although this work sometimes, be aware that Thai accented English sounds almost exactly like Japanese accented English sometimes. Found this out while watching some Thai movies in their original language {actually mixed English and Thai} while flipping the channels one night and mistaking the language for a variant of Japanese before checking the IMDB.com .
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RE: Wasted chance!

Postby toni » Fri 09.09.2005 10:14 am

Akuma, I knew that they were Japanese since it's VERY rare if Asian tourists here are from Korea, China, Vietnam, etc. And I've noticed some differences between Asian people, you can tell the difference between Japanese people and Vietnamese people.

DonnaP, now that I think about it, maybe it was good that I didn't go over to them out of the blue and just start talking to them. They might've been offended by that, especially if I'd have used ”にほんじんですか”instead of ”にほんごをはなしますか”.

Iomagu, I've had the same thing! Every now and then people have asked me if I'm Finnish or not. Just this week one of my teachers asked me if Finnish was my native language! :o Maybe it's the way I talk. I've been exposed to English since I was veeeeeeeery little so prolly that has affected the way I speak Finnish today. I've heard that my accent is "thinner" (whatever that means...) than normal Finnish accent, which is better for me when it comes to pronouncing languages. No wonder, I've always been the best pronouncer of our English class! :D Plus you should hear me speak French, I've been told it's almost like a native talking.

And I don't look like your average Finn either with my brown hair and brown eyes and southern European features.

MenomaMinx, I find it easy to distinguish between Thais and Japanese people, maybe because of the skin tone. And Thai as a language sounds more like Chinese with its various tones and pitches.
Last edited by toni on Fri 09.09.2005 10:17 am, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Wasted chance!

Postby Mukade » Sun 09.11.2005 8:26 am

There has been just as much diaspora, em/immigration and intermingling in Asia as there has been in Europe and America, and so there is no surefire way to tell Chinese from Korean from Japanese via physical characteristics. To assume that you can tell one from the other is to assume that Japanese people (or Chinese or Korean) all look alike. This is a truly naive stereotype, at best. If you ever come to Asia, you will realize that there is actually incredible variety of facial characteristics and body types.

Having said that, however, culture tends to be very different between the three countries, and so you can often tell one from the other via body language, clothing, posture, etc.
Last edited by Mukade on Sun 09.11.2005 8:27 am, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Wasted chance!

Postby Gaijinian » Sun 09.11.2005 8:57 am

That is very true, Mukade! We have a large Hmong population in our school (and when I was in Japan I saw the same thing), making you realize the diversity among Asians.
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