Posted by: thewhitesintokyo | February 13, 2009

Functional fluency…in Japanese? Really?

After months of studying sessions, listening to people on the subway and at school, and working with my wonderful tutor, Shingo-san, I just booked a hotel reservation completely in Japanese.


For our upcoming two-day break, we wanted to travel to a nearby town called Kamakura, but found a total dearth of hotels available with online booking, especially the more traditional style of Japanese hotel/inn called a “ryokan.” So, we did a little research and found some great reviews of a certain ryokan there, and got their phone number.

Imagine if you were to just call up a small hotel in China to make a reservation…what would you say? How on earth would you express that you needed a room for two for two nights, give them your name and phone number, and confirm the total cost, all without using English? I felt a little more prepared calling a Japanese hotel than I would in Chinese one, but I was still a little nervous.

During the call, random lessons from the past few months popped into my head, and phrases just spilled out in response to his questions. “Yes, two people.” “No, next Thursday, not Tuesday.” “15,000 yen? Sounds great.” “A Japanese style room, not a Western-style one.” “Yes, please.”

The call ended with the hilarious string of goodbyes common to phone calls here. In English, I think it goes something like this: “Thank you (with honor). Excuse me. Thank you. Good bye. Bye.”

I wish we had more opportunities to use this amazing new language we’re learning, but we just don’t have many Japanese friends and haven’t done much travel in Japan, so this was a first for me. Who knows, maybe we’ll come back to the States actually being able to converse and express actual thoughts and feelings in Japanese. Until then…kiotsukete and arigato gozaimasu for reading. (Take care and thanks for reading)

(We’ll see that giant buddha in Kamakura next week)


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