Oct 16, 2015

If you are Canadian why does your English sound not right?!

(This picture is just a picture of me in a Hamamatsu Curry restaurant ^^)
Today I am going to write about something that is happening to me more and more often. I work at a restaurant that takes in well over 150 customers per day, so sometimes I get a customer who can't speak Japanese and only speaks English. So my chances of running into new English speaking people have increased.
Not only that but since I am working almost full time now, I spend 95% of my day constantly speaking Japanese. I like to call it "in Japanese mode". The menu at my work is in Japanese, so I have it all memorized in Japanese, along with the explanations and what I am supposed to say to customers. So when suddenly expected to give this in English, I get thrown off.
I noticed since working longer hours I get some customers giving me a funny look when I tell them I am originally from the English speaking part of Canada.
Even as I am speaking English I think to myself "why does my accent become this weird. Ugh why can't the words just come out!!!".  Its a weird phenomenon that happens, especially at work.
When I record videos in English sometimes the start, starts off a little weird but I re-record it a few times and then I bounce into English mode and only have a minor weird accent and random slip ups of strange grammar.
But when I am at work its on some NEXT LEVEL!   #shestillgothertorontoslang
I kinda freeze up at work and words don't come out sometimes, I studder and its almost like I am a non native speaker trying to pull words out of my brain. The customers even slow down talking to me and use easy words. I find it nice and often cute how they act around me, but then I remember....hey wait.. but I am a native speaker!!!!
Even more awkward when I finally tell them I was born in Canada. It usually goes something like this.
"so we will bring to you...the bread when make it. if you think more is needed to you then you can call and tell me and I can get for you" :D    *omg mira wtf is wrong with you! more is needed to you?? what is that!??! what is that omg*

"Oh thank you *smiling thinking oh how cute shes trying to speak English*. Oh and I would like......ummm  *asks their friend, how do I say water in Japanese again??*  Yes I would like mizu ^^ mizu kudasai!!"
"hai! omizu de" *aww thats sweet they are trying to use the little Japanese they know*    (This actually happens very often. Even if customers need English help, they still use Japanese words and 75% of the time, will say arigatou gozaimasu at the end when walking out. its common courteous to the country they are in and the language the people here speak)
*Mira goes and comes back*

"heres you water ^^ and this is bread ^^"

"Oh looks wonderful!. Oh by the way, Are you Japanese?"

"Oh no"

"Oh okay ^^ Where are you originally from??" ^^

"Canada :)"

*You can notice right away a slight change in their tones and faces..like a surprised look*.

"Oh thats funny! us too!! which city??"


"oh! we are from Toronto too! so how long ago did you move to Japan?"

"Over 4 years ago".

*long pause and odd faces peek through their smiles*

"Oh. Did you live in any other countries before that or something?" *mira can tell they are wondering...you are from Canada but your English is so unnatural and broken*

Thats kinda how it goes down.  I think the main issue is when I am at work, I don't know what to say in English so I just translate stuff from Japanese into English directly. Since I translate it from Japanese into English, the sentence order is messed up and the time it takes for me to try to find a good word, is a slight delay so it appears as if I am struggling for a word I don't know.

Japanese sounds are pronounced different from English, so I noticed when I speak Japanese a lot for a long time then try to speak English it doesn't come out right.

Other than the strange looks and obvious elephants in the room , It doesn't affect me. They still understand and the orders get taken. In the end they go home happy. Its also kinda nice to see how people treat non English speakers or people who speak broken English weather its language deterioration or they are just learning. Its good to know people are not flat our rude or say "hey! speak proper English!!! " or something in anger.

Does anyone else have any interesting experiences like this or funny stories to tell ^^ ??


  1. I can understand but not relate since I do not have a secondary language. If you're living in Japan for 4 years and speaking Japanese every day then it's understandable why your English would sound a little bit broken. You've been living, speaking, writing and reading in Japanese for 4 years, your brain is in Japanese mode. I'd probably be doing the same exact thing.

    What I think would be fun is talking in Japanese to someone then cut randomly to English just to go back into Japanese to throw them through a loop.

  2. I obviously don't get it as bad as you; but I am currently teching myself spanish and japanese, while also being conversational in french and fluent in english. There are times when I finish an hour study session in another language, and when I come out of my room my grammar is bad and so is my pronunciation. I can still spell fine and write it fine, it's just going from one mode to another so quickly can be disorienting.
    And let's not even get started on how english's grammar is completley backwards to other language's grammar. That does not help at all.

    Sometimes, also being from Canada, I will think in french instead of english, and suddenly I cannot come up with the basic words I wish to speak. I mean, I live in a country where I have to speak english daily, so I cannot imagine how hard it must be for you.

  3. Hey I can totally relate to this. I'm 24 years old and my first language is Spanish I learned English when I was in 7th grade! But right now I work at a Call center and for a company called Cox Communications and I answer back to back calls all day and every once in a while I will get a call in Spanish and although I speak Spanish at home (about 90% of the time) I still mess up when I get that one caller who only Speaks Spanish (my native language.) I think the main reason is the vocabulary that I got my self so used to using at work. Vocabulary that make me sound savvy and not like a complete moron. My job is to fix people's Internet and Cable TV issues over the phone and a computer. Of course I fix many of these issues but since most of the customers call me with a problem, most of them are really angry. I believe that if they if I am able to convince my customers that I know exacly what the issue is, I will be able to deescalate the call much faster. So my point is, I'm always saying things like "Well looking at the Node (where your house gets the signal), I can tell it is not your equipment but something on our end that is not functioning correctly." Then I get a call in Spanish and I am totally lost! What am I supposed to say??? I go into translating word- for-word mode and I end up sounding like a guy who just happened to know some Spanish, and I start sounding like I have one of those bad Mexican accents from American movies!

  4. Oh yeah I don't know if Its ever happened to you but. The last time I was explaining some Japanese grammar points to my friend and I first I started explaining it in English but then at some point my friend told me, "dude did you just start explaining Japanese to me in Spanish?" My friend was so surprised of how I was able to explain grammar of a language that I have been learning in two of the other languages that I already knew. I think this happened because somehow my brain found its comfort zone at one point and just switched automatically with out making me notice.

    1. its funny cause it happens to me too. Sometimes I think ....wait. Did I just say that in Japanese or English? and I litterally don't know which language I just said it in. Sometimes I blirt out Japanese stuff to English speakers, like when I get scared, or angry or suprised.

  5. hmm.... I try to speak English with other people. My first language is German.
    Sometimes its hard not to switch to english. 90% of the Review, Howto, Manuals are in English.

  6. I am chatting with some Japanese friends recently. Their English is not that good, they use a simple one and mess up words and their order very often. I am good at English but when chatting with them I automatically switch to a mode in which I use the same, weird not good English as they do... I don't know why, I originally thought it's because I want them to understand me but it's like really strange how I build those sentences... it's the same way you spoke with those Canadians (╹ᗜ╹; ) ... Also when I speak Japanese and there are some words took from the English language I am pronouncing them in the 'Japanese way', with the accent, like I wouldn't say "switch" normally, I would definitely say "suicchi" etc., the same thing is with names; I would never roll the 'r' in "Robert", I'd rather say "Roberuto" I guess xD

    Greetings ^-^

    1. I do that exact same thing with speakers of Chinese when they're talking English - my Chinese is pretty rubbish, but I know enough to understand where their grammatical mistakes are coming from, and that makes me slip into - as you say - this slightly weird grammar.

    2. Hi. It's a good trait to have - to immerse yourself so much in a culture/language/mindset that you become it. If you ever wanted to do espionage, that trait would benefit you. ^ ^

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  8. https://twitter.com/fujibanamillion



  9. I am originally Swedish and I came to Japan in 2011 for the first time and stayed to study Japanese for 1 ½, before going back to Europe. Then I came back to Tokyo this spring. When I came back to Sweden, it was like I had forgotten how to speak Swedish, and I found myself mixing Japanese, Swedish and English whenever I spoke. My Swedish friends who studied Japanese seemed to have the same issue. Now that I'm back in Japan again, it's the same thing all over again. I went to the Swedish embassy a few months ago and found myself completely lost for words when they started speaking Swedish too me.. It's the same when I go somewhere and someone starts speaking English to me when I expect Japanese. I guess it's part of it. I remember when I was younger and used to mock the Swedish women (mostly) on TV that went to America and then started speaking Swedish with an American accent and in general just really broken Swedish.. Now I get it though. Since living abroad, my way of speaking will never be the same.. ;)

  10. I can relate since this is exactly what's happening to me right now at work. I'm from an Asian country but was raised in the UK. When I went back to my country last year and started to work, I find myself sometimes have to communicate with English-speaking customers. But because I talk in my native language (that I'm not very fluent with, I'm more fluent in English) most of the time, if I suddenly change back in English, I find myself talking really weirdly. Like, I sounded like I'm pushing the words out of my mouth and it just feels so weird that the language that I am fluent with can sound so distant. Haha

  11. I was living in different parts of Mexico and Europe for about 10 years, it's been 6 months since I'm back in my hometown, I'm giving some german/french lessons while taking japanese, I'm so glad I stumbled upon your blog and youtube channel, keep it up!

    Greetings from Salsa Country :P

  12. I can totally relate. My native language is Persian. Nowadays I find myself using more English than Persian. Watching English TV shows, youtube videos and more stuff on the internet. All are English. And I find myself having trouble with Persian. Not with the whole grammar and such like you but sometimes I find myself thinking about the Persian equivalent of an English word in the middle of a conversation. People I'm talking with would say come on why did you stop talking in the middle of a sentence. And I would say I'm trying to find the Persian word for something, can we continue this conversation in English? :D

    Oh and by the way I think you meant "whether" instead of "weather".

    Love your videos on youtube. Have a good day!

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