Today is actually January 13th but I started to write this last Sunday but then got busy and couldn't get back to it until now (that is why the date says January 6th). So....this is what I was thinking last week.
I'm sitting here enjoying my last bit of freedom before I start work tomorrow. Not that I can really complain-I have a great boss, great hours, great money etc. I am embarrassed to say it but I am an English teacher. I'm embarrassed only because....I've forgotten so much. Perhaps this sounds strange to you....it did to me the first time a friend told me that her brother basically couldn't speak English anymore after living in Quebec for more than 20 years. I really thought that it was impossible to lose your native language. I was wrong.
When I first came to Japan, I stayed with the teacher I was replacing. She was showing me how to use the washing machine....she said "now we will make the water go away"....I looked at her like she was insane.....I said "You mean we will drain the water." I was shocked. I'm not shocked anymore.
I've been here for more than 9 years and my English has gone to hell. It is amazing what you can forget. But for about 6 years I only watched Japanese TV (you'd think my Japanese would be great by now....sadly that isn't true). I remember watching a TV show where they have this famous foreigner speaking both languages and when he spoke English I actually cried cause I used to be able to speak like that. I used to be a teaching assistant at university-now I couldn't tell you if something is dangling or spelled wrong etc.Thankfully my boss teaches grammar (he teaches it in Japanese) or I'd explode from stress.
You have to understand that for 6 years not only did I only watch Japanese TV but I spoke classroom English everyday, spoke to native English speakers (my friends) only on the weekends and I dated non native English speakers (not Japanese). I was surrounded by either no English or strange English. And now, like many foreigners here, I mix both languages ALL the time so much so that my family even understands some now! (Thankfully now I have satellite TV so I can watch English TV-I swear it has helped!)
This isn't a big problem here but it is a HUGE problem when I go back to Canada. I can't tell you how many times I have gone to a store and forgotten a word in English...here is one story: I go to a store to buy a fitted sheet for my mattress back in Japan. I walk into the store and start by saying "sumimasen" (excuse me in Japanese). After I realize I'm speaking Japanese I switch to English..."I'm looking for a ....." I pause because I had FORGOTTEN the words "fitted sheet". I didn't know how to say it in either language. The lady is looking strangely at me so I start to describe it ...."it goes on the mattress and has elastic...." She says "you mean a fitted sheet?" I smile in relief and said "yes, yes, yes." At this point I explain that I live in Japan and have sadly forgotten so much English. That starts a conversation about living in Japan and I forget that I just looked stupid.
One interesting thing about language is dating someone who speaks great but not perfect English-I don't think I would ever want to be with a perfect English speaker again.....he has said somethings that have had me laughing so hard I couldn't breathe (thankfully he laughs too). Here are some cute examples...
My honey: "what is that bug with a light on its ass?"
me: (thinking hard)...."you mean a firefly?"
My honey...(looking at a bruise on my arm) "did I put the blue on you?"
Not sure if you thought they were cute or funny...maybe you had to be there but I LOVE his English and his accent!
Going to Canada sure will be interesting this summer....the 2 of us speaking Japanese or a mix of both and I can totally see me having to sometimes translate his English into real English....that is if I can!