Bilingual Communication : Part 1

Hey Everyone,

it’s your friendly neighbourhood Gaijin here. I hope your week has been going well,  mine has been semi-relaxed. Today I will be writing a short and sweet post about certain expressions which are restricted to English and need to be worded slightly different when speaking in Japanese.

So, you know when you are in midst of a conversation and someone else suddenly interrupts you? By the time you get back to what you were thinking before, oh – you can’t remember. You then proceed to say,

“Opps, I lost my train of thought.”

Now this scenario occurs in my life on a weekly basis, but now that I speak primarily Japanese in my workplace, I had no clue how to express this thought in Japanese. “思えない – I can’t think,” or “私の脳の電車は迷いました – The train of my brain is lost.” I would think of various expressions which were close to the thing I wanted to say, but not exactly the correct translation. What I realized is that – similar to the way your mannerisms, behaviors and speech tendencies try to emulate the native speakers, your thinking process needs to try its best in the same way. The proper translated expression would be “頭が真っ白になりました – My mind became white,” which is similar to the English expression – my mind went blank. So, the translated version is not exactly what I wanted to describe, but it is as close as I’m going when I’m trying to convey my message.

Many times in Japanese, my exact message and feelings are not conveyed properly. Not because of an improper usage of grammar, but because the culture does not use the words in the same way (as previously demonstrated). This is the beauty of learning multiple languages, it allows you to expand your way of thinking and improve your ability to communicate. In learning this, I have gained a greater appreciation for the occupation of one of my dear friends. My friend is an interpreter in Canada who works very hard by expanding her vocabulary, to properly convey the words and feelings from Japanese to English, or vice-versa. In doing so she becomes a bridge of communication between the two cultures to help them understand one another. In the future, I hope I can emulate this ability in my daily life.

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