Apr 17, 2015
Switching between Japanese & English is hard
I speak both English and Japanese fluently. Which language I am more comfortable speaking, more used to speaking and better at speaking all depends on the situation.
Since I live in Japan, it is easier to speak about Japanese things (culture, customs, food, money) in Japanese. There are just things you can't explain in English because they don't exist, theres no word, no culture to say such things. However working at a restaurant I am sometimes forced to have to be able to translate things into English for a customer who can't speak Japanese, and It is very very hard for me.
At my job its all Japanese, the coworkers speak Japanese, 95% of customers speak Japanese, I am trained in Japanese and this is Japan. In a Japanese restaurant there are many phrases you just never say in English speaking countries.
1. Level of politeness.
In Japan when you are speaking to the customer you use a very high polite form of Japanese. In English this doesn't exist. You also say things such as omatase shimashita - お待たせしました "I am sorry to keep you waiting". This isn't something you would say in English, so when I have to say it to the English speaking customers, I feel a little weird. Not to mention we have a phrase called ごゆっくりどうぞ goyukkuri douzo (literally: please take your time). It sounds so weird to have to repeat this to the customer in English, we just don't say this randomly after giving them their drink or food over and over again.
2. Names of food and descriptions
The menus at my work have English titles of the food on them, but what is hard to remember is that sometimes the English and Japanese is different. So when a customer orders something that I don't have the English memorized, I have to look at the menu and search it up. It also is kinda hard when asked on the spot to explain what something is, having only being taught what it is in Japanese and Japanese words to describe it, on the spot my English ends up being really weird sounding. I often find myself directly trying to translate the Japanese explanation into English and the English is just a mess.
These are just some of the problems I am facing. Mostly at work :P
Then theres an issue when I am in Japanese mode and start going back and forth between languages to quickly, I get confused and don't know which language I am speaking. There have been times with my friends where I had to tell them what to say but then ended up telling them in Japanese what the other person said in Japanese. My friends laugh it off though.
Some people may be good at switching between languages but I certianly am not.
at 9:06 AM