Impact of LingQ when travelling

Hey All

I am in Tokyo after having studied Japanese with LingQ for the previous 3 months or so. Wow. I have been using what I have studied a lot! The phrases from the texts just kind of float into my mind when they are needed. It is all about learning things in context, I guess. People (my inlaws) are impressed. And it is generally hard to impress your inlaws. :wink:

Hi Ed,
Welcome to Japan! glad to hear that you are able to show off your Japanese skill in front of in-laws. I’m so proud of you. :wink:
When traveling abroad, I often get warmer welcome if I speak their language you know.
Good luck and enjoy your stay!

Hi Ed!
I’m glad to hear that your Japanese study in LIngQ works well. I’m impressed with your effort and passion as a learner, not only a teacher. You have proved that learning language with LingQ authentic content would be good and work.
Enjoy your stay in Japan and talk a lot in Japanese!

Hi

Thanks for the comments. I am really enjoying Tokyo.

Some of my observations:

The aging population is evident. I think Japan has one of the oldest average populations and everywhere I look , people who must be in their early 60s and up outnumber every other age group combined… at the train station, in restaurants, walking the streets etc… although I must keep in mind that I am on vacation and therefore am usually seeing those who are living outside the 9-5 routine.

The everyday restaurant food here is so much better than such food in Vancouver. This is not surprising to me because Canada does not have a mature food culture. But it is one of the best things about Japan as far as I am concerned.

Although I know people here have one of the world`s longest life spans, I am constantly amazed at the large amount of smoking and drinking people do here.

The customer service here puts Vancouver to shame. At a normal coffee shop here, you get service reserved for the best restaurants in Vancouver. However I really feel uncomfortable with the shouted “Welcome” and “Come again” when you go into a store. When my wife went to have her hair done, anytime a customer entered or left the store every employee in the store started chanting a 10 second long welcome or parting message in unison . This became problematic because I was supposed to wait for her at at local coffee shop. I couldn`t find the place so I had to return to the salon several times to get directions, each time prompting this chanting welcome… then parting. After the second time I returned there was some confusion amongst the staff as to whether I should get the welcome or not. I felt bad for causing so much trouble. Then when I finally found the coffee shop, I entered, hearing another “Welcome!” greeting. Only then did I realise that I had no Japanese Yen on me, so back to hair salon yet again to get money from my wife, then back to the coffee shop. I think people were getting really tired of me by then.

More later

Hi

Thanks for the comments. I am really enjoying Tokyo.

Some of my observations:

The aging population is evident. I think Japan has one of the oldest average populations and everywhere I look , people who must be in their early 60s and up outnumber every other age group combined… at the train station, in restaurants, walking the streets etc… although I must keep in mind that I am on vacation and therefore am usually seeing those who are living outside the 9-5 routine.

The everyday restaurant food here is so much better than such food in Vancouver. This is not surprising to me because Canada does not have a mature food culture. But it is one of the best things about Japan as far as I am concerned.

Although I know people here have one of the world`s longest life spans, I am constantly amazed at the large amount of smoking and drinking people do here.

The customer service here puts Vancouver to shame. At a normal coffee shop here, you get service reserved for the best restaurants in Vancouver. However I really feel uncomfortable with the shouted “Welcome” and “Come again” when you go into a store. When my wife went to have her hair done, anytime a customer entered or left the store every employee in the store started chanting a 10 second long welcome or parting message in unison . This became problematic because I was supposed to wait for her at at local coffee shop. I couldn`t find the place so I had to return to the salon several times to get directions, each time prompting this chanting welcome… then parting. After the second time I returned there was some confusion amongst the staff as to whether I should get the welcome or not. I felt bad for causing so much trouble. Then when I finally found the coffee shop, I entered, hearing another “Welcome!” greeting. Only then did I realise that I had no Japanese Yen on me, so back to hair salon yet again to get money from my wife, then back to the coffee shop. I think people were getting really tired of me by then.

More later

Hilarious! That reminds me of villages or very small towns in Germany where you still greet everyone - it does get silly after you walk past them the third time within a few mintues, by which time I tend to have a fixed grin on my face and just nod.

Although I have no interest in Japanese as yet, it’s wonderful to read about people’s first hand impressions. It must be a fascinating country. Thank you.

Hi Ed!
As a Japanese, it’s interesting to read your observations in Tokyo. I’m surprised that you realized about the aging population of Japan even in Tokyo. I’m mid 50 and I live in a small town. Many(most) of my neighbors are older than me. However, when I go to a big city like Osaka, most people round me look younger than me.

I’m glad that you like restaurant food and the customer service in Tokyo. We are proud of it. I’m sorry that you feel uncomfortable with the shouted “Irassyaimase!” at the hair salon and the coffee shop. I don’t realize that non-Japanese feel uncomfortable with this well-educated welcome shouting. Many shops in Japan offer those too much irassyaimase calls.

I’m looking forward to your following report.

Hi.

I’m Japanese, however, to be honest, I also feel uncomfortable when I am told out loud “Welcome” from many clerks at the same time when I get in shops. I totally understood what you felt.

As for the customer service, Japanese one is very nice. This is true. But they chat less than western ones. Sometimes American clerks are not polite, but very casual and talkative. I enjoyed chit chatting with American clerks when visited there.

Have fun in Japan, Ed!

I’m so happy to hear that you made a good impression on your inlaws. Good job, Ed!

The story about your experience at the hair salon (and you were not even their customer) is really funny. I burst into laughing in front of the computer and my son, who was in the same room, gave me a weird look… :stuck_out_tongue:

Thanks for your responses everyone.

More observations on Japan…

The bicycles are fantastic. First, there are quite a lot of them compared to Vancouver, and they are a lot more practical. In Vancouver people ride ten-speed racers to work wearing full racing tights, reflective vests, and helmets with flashing headlights. In Tokyo most of the bikes are what I would call touring bikes… bikes for getting from A to B around the neighborhood. They are invariably with a sloping cross bar for easy mounting and dismounting, what we used to call "girls bikes" when I was a kid. Often they are fitted with baskets for shopping or kids seats. It is common to see toddlers riding with their moms as they do the shopping. A least twice I have seen moms riding around with 3 (three!) kids perched on the back , the front, and the area behind the handlebars. You also can often see “cool” young men riding bikes in in their school uniforms… including loafers, without a helmet, holding an umbrella in one hand, a book in the other, while puffing on a cigarette.

The least practical bikes seem to be a special editions put out by fashionable brands. I`ve seen Hummer, and I think Yves St Laurent. I am waiting for the Burberry and Luis Vuitton versions.

A note on listening:Since I am here in Tokyo I am giving my LingQ listening a break and just trying to absorb as much as possible from my environment. It is different because you have no transcript and no rewind button. In particular I find that I am often listening to my wifes grand pa, who has endless advice and stories for my benefit, and who delivers them in a thick Aomori accent. At first I was vainly trying to piece together the informational content from his stories, which was futile. He didnt seem to mind that I had a confused look on my face, so he would keep going.

Eventually I found that I could relax and just nod along using the following technique: Often the media players like Windows Media Player have visual “skins” that give you an abstract lava-lamp like visual representation of the sounds. I decided to just imagine what images would be produced my my grand-pa in-law`s stories as if they were being played in WMP. I immediately relaxed.

I`m serious. In fact it is amazing what you can pick up from the tones and textures of the voice if you just relax about not knowing the words. I feel like I have got to know my grand pa in law quite well with out really knowing any particular thing about him.

More on Japan:

I remember reading someone, I think it was Cakypa, who wrote that they thought Tokyo was expensive. Well I just got a fine haircut for about 11 dollars US. (1000 Japanese yen). You can find a delicious lunch: ramen, donburi, gyoza, yakinuku, from among the many little independent restaurants for less than that. You can even eat well for less than 6 dollars if you like rice balls and miso soup. Today I took the train for about a distance of 15 or 20 km (40 minutes) and paid about 3.50 US. Rents for a modest apartment run about 600 US/month.

All of these prices are about 20 to 30 % less than what you pay in Vancouver. And the product in Tokyo is usually better quality. Like most places, if you look around you can find good deals.

I am finding much the same in Portugal, using my language, talking to people who are amazingly friendly, and food and other things are certainly less expensive than in Canada. (most things)

Several years ago I had a lunch at one cafe near The Red Square. And it costed even less than my usual lunch at dining-hall in my university… I just could not believe my eyes, when I saw prices. Because a day ago I bought some snack in GUM (the shop on the Red Square) and it costs like a good dinner at restaurant!

Now I am on my way to a local play group we found so that Eric, my one-year-old, could enjoy time interacting with Japanese toddlers. We have been going to various play groups in the past week and it has been interesting to note the differences between such groups in Vancouver and in Tokyo.

First, I have to say that Japanese style (washoku) rooms in general seem to have been purpose-built for toddlers. Everywhere there is soft tatami floor to soften the shock from the falls that are common at that age. The tables are at the perfect height for newbie walkers to hang on to as they cruise around. The walls are generally bare so there are no tempting trinkets that they can yank. The cupboard doors are usually sliding so that they cant easily hang off them either, or jam their fingers. Similarly the room doors slide, rather than open in or out, so the danger of a kid getting bonked by a swinging door is gone. Finally, even the adults are sitting around on the tatami so they are right down on the kids level.

The actual group events themselves, which are held in large washoku rooms, are on the surface pretty similar to the ones on Vancouver. Parents, usually moms, and their kids are sitting in groups with toys strewn about. Kids , aged 6 months to 3 years are endlessly darting from one activity to another, usually ignoring each other. I find they go in a loop: from Mom or Dad, to toys, to toys that other kids are using (because they seem so much better than the one they have) to a little spat with other kid. The winner keeps the toy for about 30 seconds, gets bored, and starts looking for new toys to conquer. The loser loops back to Mom or Dad.

The differences are mostly from the impact that Eric and I have on the kids. I am a big (for them) white guy with weird blue eyes. There are usually one of three reactions: 1) feigned indifference 2) extreme curiosity 3) extreme shyness or perhaps fear. The first reaction is the most common. I say “feigned” indifference because invariably, if I am with them for long enough, they start asking me why my hair is this color etc. Number 2 and number 3 are about equal. I used to be a bit put off by number 3 because Eric, who looks more European than Japanese, would sometimes be shunned by those kids. A few times they would even shout “kusai” (smelly) even though I would check and found nothing actually “kusai” with Eric at the time.

Oh well I have to go soon.

More later

I am in a bit if a rush so I am just going to make a general comment about something that I feel very strongly about: Cars!. Although see the beauty of some higher end cars such as older model Jaguars and Mercedes, for the most part I hate cars. I think the automobilimi-fi-cation (thats not a real word) of cities has created more ugliness in the urban landscape than any other single thing I can think of. Everywhere there is concrete, pavement, soot, smell, noise, and occasional human maiming all for the sake of the car. Thats not even mentioning the ugliness of the average car itself. To me they are the equivalent of discarded aluminum cans as they line the sides of street and occupy every available nook and cranny. What`s worse is the arrogance inherent in most car drivers. The most mild-mannered, diffident, person seems to think they have the right to basically hog the road from pedestrians. Tokyo is a testament to that. Here, and I think in most big cities it is the same, the crosswalk is seen as a suggestion for the driver to stop and allow pedestrians to cross, rather than a duty as I am sure it is written in the law. The funny thing about Tokyo, as opposed to other big cities I have been to, is that it is considered very bad manners to jaywalk, while cars regularly break the law at the expense of people.

I am not against vehicles for the purposes of transportation of goods for trade, or emergency services etc, but lets cut down on all the single rider cars in conurbations like Tokyo, and Vancouver. Tokyo, especially, has a superb public transportation system. What gives?

Upon rereading the post on “washoku” I realise I should have written “washitsu”.

A few more observations on Japan:

The celebrities here flog everything from Cup Ramen, to houses, to toilets. Imagine David Letterman or Jerry Seinfeld`s face on a package of scouring pads. Picture Mohammad Ali on cans of fruit punch. How about Britney Spears selling fig newtons. I may be wrong but I think the celebrities here differ from those in America because there are many more in Japan who are just famous for being famous. They have never done a lot of conventional entertaining, they just show up on talk shows and then, eventually, on shower curtains.

Maybe this is a universal psychological phenomena, but it is getting continually easier to see people here as people who live in Japan rather than as Japanese people. That is, when in Canada, I tend to view people from other countries within a stereotypical framework, ie Japanese are thin, slight, hard working, polite etc. After being in Japan I feel like this stereotype doesn`t really exist anymore. On the other hand I can understand why people here may see me in a rather stereotypical, and sometimes inaccurate way: the loud, obnoxious, pushy, American.

One thing that I am the least comfortable with here is the way in which people are helpful here. It is analogous to my earlier post about the chanted “Welcome” you get in the stores, except this time the venue is usually the dinner table. In Japan people like to pick from many different dishes of food that are laid out on the table. You have your own plate and usually bowl of rice, but you continuously serve yourself, or are served, from these various dishes of grilled meat, grilled fish, sashimi, tempura, salad, pickled vegetables and whatever else the host has on hand and wants to serve you. Alcohol is also very common, including some of the excellent Japanese beers and usually concluding with some sake, which I adore. Beware. There are landmines to avoid, as a guest, and I think especially as a foreigner-guest. Number one is, if you are looking at something curiously, your host will immediately assume you want to eat it but are being too shy to take it for yourself, and she will immediately serve you an extra large portion on your plate. So if you were just trying to figure what the expression on that shrimps face reminded you of, but had no desire to eat it, you will nevertheless be forced to eat it as that shrimp and a few of his buddies will soon be on your plate. At one point I felt I like I had to stare straight at the wall or the ceiling for fear of getting another unneeded helping of something yummy, like tuna belly sashimi, or worse, something not so appetizing, like salmon row, sea urchin, or anything with eyes that stare back at me. The service of alcohol is a variation on this, in my opinion, overly automatic helpfulness. In Japan, it is normal for a host to fill your glass to the brim if there is any space between the rim and liquid-level. This was explained to me early on but I would continually forget and drain my glass thinking. "Ok thats it for me tonight." only to find my glass refilled seconds later. Now I am from a background, eastern Canada, where one is loathe to leave a glass of perfectly good beer on the table, so I would instructively just, think “Oh well, I`ll just get this into me, and call it quits.” Gulp, gulp. Predictably, my my eyes would swim down seconds later to see a glistening, full glass of what was by now a somewhat irresistible fluid. You can see where this story ends. It is real test of will power for me to just pretend sip at a full glass some fantastic Japanese beer or sake in an effort not to get served anymore.

instructively>instinctively

I think this will be my last post from Japan. We are in our second last day and our last full day here. From now on we will be busy packing and saying our goodbyes, as well as taking care of our son Eric.

I must say that I have been exhausted the last few days. Eric has been sleeping irregularly. I was run off my feet trying to keep up with him at the various local play grounds. Thank goodness the weather has been good, about 20 degrees and sunny. Of course my wife is helping me out but I promised her I would do most of the child minding when we are in Japan, to give her a chance to enjoy the time more freely. Usually she is a stay-at-home mom so it is kind of a role reversal.

One of things that is a little upsetting to me as a father here is that there are still, at least in my wifes family. what are to me, outdated views on gender roles. Girls/women do this. Boys/men are like that. This affects me as a an adult male because I feel like, to some extent, my father and brother-in-law think I am being made to do womens work, when I am just doing what I can to help my son. If my wife gets a break now, this means she is happier when she goes back to the full-time mom role, which means my son is happier. I actually do think that children younger than about 18 months should have a full-time mother, so I am guilty of some gender discrimination myself. But I am not so strict as to consider any full-time care, which includes feeding, changing diapers, bathing,etc, as beyond my scope as a father. However I get the mostly unspoken sense from my male in-laws that I am not being a real man. I think this sense is present in Vancouver too. But I guess I am less aware of it because I am able to choose my acquaintances in Vancouver, but I can`t choose my in-laws. Well, not so much, anyway.

The other thing that rubs me the wrong way here is the “tatteshakai” or, literally, “vertical society” that is strong here within families. For instance, my wife`s older brother is, to my mind, overly free with his child rearing advice for his little sister, my wife, who is supposed to sit and agree with him according to the Japanese version of familial harmony. This in spite of the fact that his beliefs on child rearing are pretty much in direct opposition to what my wife and I believe. What is ironic here is that not only is he a man, and therefore not supposed to have any direct child rearing experience, but he is actually childless himself. Sheesh.

Well this bit of negativity has only been a drop in the ocean of nice times I have had here. We enjoyed ourselves a lot, staying close to home. I got to practice a lot of Japanese not only with my in-laws but many of the fellow parents I met at the playgrounds. I kept a little wordbook in my back pocket to which I added Japanese expressions that caught my attention, usually noting the context in which they came up. At night I would go through it with my wife and fill out the meanings. It has become something of a memorial of my trip, as effective any any photo album. Of course I will be adding them to LingQ as soon as I get back. Thanks for reading. I have decided to record the observations in this thread and post them in the library when I get back. I am not promising when it will get done. In the mean time, see you later. “Mata ne.”

The ironic thing is that my brother-in-law, who seems to have chosen to remain childless, despipe ebing married, is a