I remember listening to the 4-Hour-Workweek audio book by Tim Ferriss. I was interested in hearing more about Tim’s stories in Japan, as I am currently living here myself. One thing that struck me as pretty funny was how he used the work “okasu” instead of “okosu” to ask his host mother to wake him up the following day. For those who haven’t heard either of these words before, one means to wake someone up (okosu) and the other means to rape or deflower someone. Ferriss mentioned that his host mother seemed really confused. I thought that was a pretty funny story.
Another pronunciation snafu happened at work, when one of my coworkers was telling some of the students that he wanted to go to a “gokan” party. He was trying to say “gocon” which is pronounced like “go” and “cone (with a slightly shorter, long o sound)” in Japanese. A “gocon party” is a way to find a potential date or mate in Japan. You have friends who have friends, and everyone meets up to see who might like who (that’s the way I understand it, anyway). On the other hand, the word “gokan” once again…means rape. So instead of a dating party, my coworker was actually telling the students that he wanted to go to a rape party. I’m sure it was probably just a little off-putting, but, roll-on-the-floor hilarious!
Of course, if a Westerner sees this word, it’s very easy to make the mistake of say the “o” the same way it’s said in the word “hot.” With Japanese, it’s a good a idea to try to listen the way native speakers say things. I’m still trying to get it, too. I’ve had many a situation where, in my mind, I know I’m saying the right word, but it’s falling on deaf ears. The reason why is pronunciation. Some people think “Well if it’s close to the sound, won’t they know what I’m saying?” Well, in many cases, they won’t. So I think it’s important to try to speak the way Japanese natives do.
Desperately trying to follow my own advice…everyday,
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