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Informal or Formal with other students?

Japanese, general discussion on the language

RE: Informal or Formal with other students?

Postby Mike Cash » Wed 08.22.2007 8:33 am

When the majority of Japanese quit remarking on your Japanese ability is the time when you know have progressed to a significant level. I'll echo Shirasagi in assuring you that the likelihood of anyone laughing is damned near zero.

Regarding the original question, foreigners (most particularly beginners) benefit from the Talking Dog effect. The remarkable thing about a talking dog is not how well it talks, but that it talks at all. Consequently, we get cut one hell of a lot of slack for politeness level errors. While one should always do one's best to get it right, it isn't something to worry about too much.
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RE: Informal or Formal with other students?

Postby kayuu » Wed 08.22.2007 8:47 am

[offtopic]

Shirasagi wrote:
Japanese is the kindest language for beginners. The French and Germans have reputations for being snobby and mean to people who can't speak their languages well, and in reality even they are for the most part forgiving of foreign speakers giving an honest effort.


I speak seven years worth of French and I've been to France a few times, and I've often come into a situation where I've gone to a food counter in France and the following conversation has ensued:

Me: Je voudrais deux frites et une bouitelle de cola, sil vous plait.
Counter: *Spies English accent* Do you want any ketchup? That'll be €4 please.
Me: *thinking* Damn there went my French practice...

It's the same with all European languages I've encountered so far - the natives would rather speak bad English themselves than have you speak their language badly to them, like we language learners bring them shame.

As for my ability to speak any other language - it's severely hindered by the fact that I always speak in a strong British accent.

[/offtopic]
Last edited by kayuu on Wed 08.22.2007 8:48 am, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Informal or Formal with other students?

Postby Mike Cash » Wed 08.22.2007 9:21 am

@kayuu

127 years later, Twain's observations are still relevant.

And while one really needs to read The Innocents Abroad to really see him take on the subject, this page is a nice introduction.

I have always loved the scene in the French hotel where his traveling companion is composing an outraged letter to the manager over the paucity of candles and the lack of soap......"....savon is a necessite de la vie to anybody but a Frenchman!" is among the complaints. Twain points out to his friend that the manager likely won't be able to read the mishmash of English and French that comprises the letter, only to be told, "well he can read the French and average the rest!"

Man, I have to dig that thing out and re-read it sometime.
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RE: Informal or Formal with other students?

Postby Shirasagi » Wed 08.22.2007 10:03 am

Mike Cash wrote:
@kayuu

127 years later, Twain's observations are still relevant.


On a German-related forum, "This explains why, whenever a person says sie to me, I generally try to kill him, if a stranger" is in my sig line. There's another little speech he gives (he originally gave it in German) with the line, "I would permit no one to do what Schiller did. He has compressed the entire history of the thirty years' war between the two parts of a separable verb."

And while one really needs to read The Innocents Abroad to really see him take on the subject, this page is a nice introduction.

Man, I have to dig that thing out and re-read it sometime.


I've been looking for it at the big books stores here in Japan, but I think I'm going to have to bite the bullet and order it from Amazon.

And anyone who enjoys Twain must check out "1601".

Sorry for the thread shift...
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RE: Informal or Formal with other students?

Postby two_heads_talking » Wed 08.22.2007 10:10 am

Mike Cash wrote:
Inflated self-assessment is par for the course with just about every Japanese learner I have ever encountered. Fortunately, for most it is a phase which passes.


yeah very few foreigners have little to no "foreign accent." even people who have lived in Japan for 20 years still have their accents.
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RE: Informal or Formal with other students?

Postby two_heads_talking » Wed 08.22.2007 10:15 am

Mike Cash wrote:
When the majority of Japanese quit remarking on your Japanese ability is the time when you know have progressed to a significant level. I'll echo Shirasagi in assuring you that the likelihood of anyone laughing is damned near zero.

Regarding the original question, foreigners (most particularly beginners) benefit from the Talking Dog effect. The remarkable thing about a talking dog is not how well it talks, but that it talks at all. Consequently, we get cut one hell of a lot of slack for politeness level errors. While one should always do one's best to get it right, it isn't something to worry about too much.


quoted for truth. When they finally stop commenting on your ability to speak, you have progressed to a point where now your ability to speak correctly in on trial..
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RE: Informal or Formal with other students?

Postby richvh » Wed 08.22.2007 10:17 am

Shirasagi wrote:
Mike Cash wrote:
And while one really needs to read The Innocents Abroad to really see him take on the subject, this page is a nice introduction.

Man, I have to dig that thing out and re-read it sometime.


I've been looking for it at the big books stores here in Japan, but I think I'm going to have to bite the bullet and order it from Amazon.

And anyone who enjoys Twain must check out "1601".

Sorry for the thread shift...


Project Gutenberg has it for download.
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RE: Informal or Formal with other students?

Postby tanuki » Wed 08.22.2007 12:40 pm

The French and Germans have reputations for being snobby and mean to people who can't speak their languages well, and in reality even they are for the most part forgiving of foreign speakers giving an honest effort.


Germans? Perhaps it's just the part I lived in (South-West), but I didn't meet one single German who was snobby or remotely mean regarding my mediocre German ability in six months. I *never* experienced anyone switching to English or laughing or something like that.
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RE: Informal or Formal with other students?

Postby AJBryant » Wed 08.22.2007 12:58 pm

I was at once a bit hurt and rather pleased once when a friend in Japan suggested that if I improved my conversational ability, I would be able to enjoy things a lot more.

It's very true that there is a "talking dog" thing going on -- and it causes a great deal of false self-evaluations. I maintain that my conversational Japanese is... well, rather sucky since I never use it any more, but I try to keep up with my reading.

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RE: Informal or Formal with other students?

Postby two_heads_talking » Wed 08.22.2007 1:02 pm

conversational Japanese and written Japanese are indeed two seperate monsters.
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RE: Informal or Formal with other students?

Postby witega » Wed 08.22.2007 2:11 pm

And to supplement those actually living in Japan, Japanese natives living in other countries are, if anything, even more polite and encouraging when it comes to Japanese learners. I've had occasion to speak with everything from exchange students to a corporate lawyer to permanent immigrants and despite my noticably heavy American accent and stuttering every time I try to conjugate a verb in real-time, I've never seen the slightest indication of laughter or ridicule. Remember that whatever struggles you are having learning to speak their language, they have had the same while trying to learn yours.

And to the original question, as Yudan said, speak in whatever register you are most comfortable with and then from there do your best to match how she replies to you. The worse you are--and if you aren't sure what register to use with her, she'll be able to tell--the more forgiving they are when it comes to politeness.
Last edited by witega on Wed 08.22.2007 2:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Informal or Formal with other students?

Postby jziemba » Thu 08.23.2007 5:02 am

two_heads_talking wrote:

yeah very few foreigners have little to no "foreign accent." even people who have lived in Japan for 20 years still have their accents.


I have a real thick Michigan/polish accent it is not as bad as it was three years ago but still, every now and then people have a hard time understanding me. (in English and Japanese).
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RE: Informal or Formal with other students?

Postby Mike Cash » Thu 08.23.2007 7:50 am

Yippee!! I found it!

Samuel Clemens wrote:
.......The English know how to travel comfortably, and they carry soap with them;
other foreigners do not use the article.

At every hotel we stop at we always have to send out for soap, at the
last moment, when we are grooming ourselves for dinner, and they put it
in the bill along with the candles and other nonsense. In Marseilles
they make half the fancy toilet soap we consume in America, but the
Marseillaise only have a vague theoretical idea of its use, which they
have obtained from books of travel, just as they have acquired an
uncertain notion of clean shirts, and the peculiarities of the gorilla,
and other curious matters. This reminds me of poor Blucher's note to the
landlord in Paris:

PARIS, le 7 Juillet. Monsieur le Landlord--Sir: Pourquoi don't you
mettez some savon in your bed-chambers? Est-ce que vous pensez I
will steal it? La nuit passee you charged me pour deux chandelles
when I only had one; hier vous avez charged me avec glace when I had
none at all; tout les jours you are coming some fresh game or other
on me, mais vous ne pouvez pas play this savon dodge on me twice.
Savon is a necessary de la vie to any body but a Frenchman, et je
l'aurai hors de cet hotel or make trouble. You hear me. Allons.
BLUCHER.

I remonstrated against the sending of this note, because it was so mixed
up that the landlord would never be able to make head or tail of it; but
Blucher said he guessed the old man could read the French of it and
average the rest.
Last edited by Mike Cash on Thu 08.23.2007 7:51 am, edited 1 time in total.
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