Last weekend I went to K’s Denki, one of the largest, most famous electronic store chains here in Japan. I went, intending to return an item. I had purchased a Sony Voice Recorder back in early August, and just never used it…ever. The recorder cost about 10,000 yen or just over $100. I’m a bit of a penny pincher at times, and I thought $100 was rather expensive for a dust collector. I hopped on my bike and went to K’s with a “what’s the worst that could happen” attitude. I was completely expecting the clerks to say “no,” because it had almost been two months!! But as it turns out I got a full refund of the item purchase price. Problem solved, right? Well, not exactly. Getting the refund was great, but I still left K’s Denki unhappy. Why? Because I was SO disappointed with how bad my Japanese is.
I’ve been in Japan now for 2 years, 8 months, and 27 days. Granted that’s not enough time for me to become fluent in Japanese, but I was really shocked that I so much trouble communicating. I don’t remember exactly what words were being used, but I could only pick up bits and pieces. After bumbling and stumbling over my limited Japanese vocabulary, they called one of the clerks who spoke English to come and help me. I was devastated. I thought I was getting better. Although this was inspiration to help me study more, it’s still a blow to my language ego when setbacks this bad happen.
So what have I been doing wrong? Well, to be frank, I realize that I’m simply not practicing as much as I could be. I currently work at an Eikaiwa, a relatively large, privately-owned language company here in Japan. It’s a really cool job and all, but I hear/speak mainly English for the portion part of my day. Is that a good excuse? Not at all. People work in all kinds of places, and just never make the effort to learn Japanese. I don’t want to become one of the statistics. I don’ t want to live in Japan for years and years, only to have command of Frankenstein Japanese (vocab & grammar pieced together to make atrocious, monstrous sentences). I have to take steps to hear Japanese as it’s used in everyday speech. I have some great text materials, CDs, and computer programs (which I think are important, too) but if I can’t do something as common as making an item return…there’s definitely a problem. It’s a problem I am desperately determined to resolve.
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