Cordially invited to a sports meetings, I was able to be acquainted with some new faces, and as always, before getting to know others you have to somewhat introduce yourself, like your name, profession and nationality, which is a social etiquette specific not only in Japan but also, I believe, universal.
Thus I abided by the rule. My interest in world literature had clearly drawn Taknori’s attention, and he inquired, “Since you read literatures in other languages, so you can speak them, don’t you?”
“Yes, I do, although I’m never a fluent speaker in French and German,” I tried to be as humble as I could.
“Terrific!” He exclaimed as I expected, “It’s really terrific!” You will not be stupefied if you know that excessive compliments are indeed usual in Japanese society. Some may say this is too pretentious, but to me, well, the coin always has two sides, as praises and encouragement can make your companion feel good. The same case may not apply to me, though.
“But do you think that smartphones or computers may substitute the motivation of language learning one day,” he continued, “which means you can communicate people with just an iPhone?”
“No, I don’t think so,” I replied unconsciously almost within an instantaneous second, “it may seem convenient that a google application can translate your words into other languages, yet a lapse of time needed for translation is inevitable; machine never works well for colloquial and voguish expressions, for language is forever being, and never ceases to be.”
“It would also be impossible,” I added, “for us to talk like this if we didn’t have a common language.”
He was either convinced by my words, I guess, or felt simply too meaningless to rebut. Few seconds later, he changed another subject. Now when I recall this little scene once again, however, Nelson Mandela – former President of South Africa –’s words concurrently spring up in my mind:
“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”
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[Featured image taken by James on 15th November, 2015]