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Getting Lost (and Other Useful Mistakes I Have Made)

One day I was running a bit late for school. As I came rushing down the stairs at the station I noticed the train already on the platform with the doors open. I rushed in just as they closed.

“That's odd.” I thought, “The train is nowhere near as crowded as usual.”

As we pulled out a couple of stations later I noticed the local Daiei (department store). “That's odd.” I thought, “Daiei looks further away than usual.”

I didn't recognise the next station. That was very odd. I made my way to the doors and investigated the map of the train lines above the door. Ah. Wrong train.

Off at the next station, wait for the train coming the other way, back to where I went wrong, on the right train, half an hour late for school.

Valuable lesson learned. Always check where the train is going before you get on.

But I learned something even better that day. I learned that I knew enough to survive catching the wrong train. After that I had confidence on any train because I knew that if I got it wrong, I could always get back to where I should have been.

I did the same with my Japanese. I made lot's of mistakes. But after the first one I realised that it doesn't matter. I can get back to what I wanted to say. And Japanese people are very forgiving of foreigners' mistakes.

One time I was having dinner with the other teachers from school. They were all Japanese, and somehow I was put at the table with the two beautiful women while the men all drank beer and ate meat at the other table. I didn't mind :)

So the ladies were talking about something (in Japanese) and I was doing my best to understand. At one point I was thinking, wow, I am completely the opposite to what they just said. I wanted to show that I understood, and to join in the conversation (and to try out some Japanese), so I said boldly, “ぼくは、へんたいです”(boku wa, hentai desu). Of course what I meant to say wasはんたい (hantai) which means opposite. What I said, wasへんたい (hentai) which means pervert.

Their jaws dropped, their eyes stared blankly, they looked quizzically at each other. “That's odd” I thought, “They usually respond much better when I try my Japanese.”

Of course it worked out OK once we all realised my mistake.

And that's the point. It all worked out OK. Like the train.

So be brave with your Japanese.
Take risks. It will be OK. And, you'll end up with some funny, albeit embarassing, stories to tell your friends. And even more, you'll end up with confidence.<