The thing with learning a language like Japanese is that is takes time. Lots and lots and lots of time.
It's a process.
On the whole, one that I am enjoying, in a frustratingly-and-painstakingly-slow-kind-of-way.
However, I have been noticing that over the last couple of weeks, me and and friends are speaking a lot more of what we fondly term… Japanglish.
In fact, if Japanglish were a real language, I'd say I was almost fluent…
And what exactly is Japanglish I hear you ask?
Well, it's a kind of just-about-but-only-just-understandable-mix-of-Japanese-English.
I work in a language school that teaches five languages. On a daily basis I am hanging out with Japanese, Thai, Chinese, French, and American students and friends…. Amongst a whole host of other nationalities. On any given day, there are so many languages getting thrown around that I often pause to wonder, 'Am I meant to be able to understand this….? Oh no, it's Thai/Korean/take-your-pick…'
The first week in June will bring about 40 new students from about 15 countries to our eclectic mix…
And I absolutely love it.
Yes, it's a bit crazy and confusing at times… But there's a family-like-vibrancy in our school that makes it a joyful-beautiful-learning experience.
However, this daily reality, together with the fact that most of my friends from church or general-life are Japanese, means that sometimes my brain just goes into language melt-down.
And in those times, what comes out of said brain is a weird combination of…. Japanglish.
It especially happens with words that are now more familiar to me in Japanese than English. Like the days of the week. Or the time. Or the word for 'vending machine'. That kind of thing.
例えば (for example), my good friend Fah finishes her time with our school on Friday to return to Thailand and when I realised this my hilarious exclamation was, 'On 金曜日 (Friday) I will be so 寂しい (lonely).'
Or my increasingly frequent habit of finishing sentences with ね(?!) instead of 'right(?!)'
Or when I'm teaching English and I say to my students, 'Turn to page 24 and 読みましょう… (let's read…)'
It works both ways though.
My friend Ayumi lamented loudly on Saturday night… 'My phone is broken でしょう. 本当に… (it seriously is broken…)'
Or one of my colleagues, when we were talking to a student about out-of-school hours behaviour exclaimed… 'That is not 大丈夫 (okay)!'
Or another of my friends beginning their break-time sentence with… 'I'm going to buy 紅茶 (black tea) from the 販売機 (vending machine)!'
It also happens when you forget the word for something. Which happens a lot. Like my American friend, trying to explain to my Japanese friend that he loved to eat duck… Completely forgot the word in Japanese for 'duck'.
His approach to overcoming this problem was to describe a 'duck' using the only Japanese he could muster in the moment… Which came out as… '泳ぐチキン' … Literally, 'swimming chicken'.
No, she didn't guess from that either.
Or when I forgot the word for 'crow' (remember the epically frightening Sapporo-crows) so described that I had run way from a '大きい鳥' (big bird) using the descriptors '黒い' (black) and '鬼' (demon-ish-thing).
Which was more successful for the guess-the-meaning-work…
But still pretty amusing for the class who were listening…
We have so many language-related-jokes that I think we could write a book relatively soon.
Ok, so where I am going with this?
Well, sometimes I think life and holiness and living for God can be a bit like my struggle with language. We have all the heart and all the drive and all the intention to live a fluent kingdom-lifestyle, but often what comes out of our hearts and our minds and our will is this strange mix of narcissistic motivations, and fearful steps, and uncertainty at every turn.
We want to be fluent in living for Him. So much our heart-break and our tears-fall and our lives-are-surrendered… But even then, we become more aware of our complete need for grace.
Ann Voscamp wrote an awesome blog about this earlier in the week, and in the absence of any better words, I'm going to quote her…
God be merciful on us, the sinners… He won't let us go. We are all shards in a mosaic of Grace. I meet a woman who sells cars for a living. She tells me that white is the best colour for a vehicle and I tell her we live in the country on a gravel road and white would never work where we live. She tells me white is always the perfect vehicle no matter where you live. And it's on Sunday morning after that Wednesday, standing in the door of our country church, when I notice how different the white vehicles in the parking lot look beside the grey pickups, the black cars. It's after communion, and I can still taste pure grace on the roof of my mouth. It's after our filth before His purity has tore me open again and the tears had made their soundness way down and I had just held it, whitest bread. I stand at the church door, remembering what has been done in rememberence of Him who saved the worst of us, and I remember what the woman who sold cars said. She said, 'White hides the dirt the best. It makes no sense, but white hides the dirt best.' And there's a Lamb who is white and there's a Way to be white as snow and when we are our worst, His white hides our dirt best. In Him, you are not your sin. In Him, you are not your dirt. In Him, you are hidden and your inquity is made clean by your identity and your identity is in His purity…
That's such a beautiful truth. And in that grace, Holy Spirit can empower us to grow in holy-fluency as we walk this out hand-in-hand with the One we love.
Oh, and please, keep praying for my language studies… 😉
And these people…