Bragging Point

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At one school I sit back-to-back with a teacher who is studying English. In Japan people who study English are usually left extremely frustrated because they have few opportunities to exercise this skill. Hence, she often wants to talk to me. Generally I want to oblige and I’m on the payroll regardless of whether I’m giving her a lesson or reviewing my schedule of classes.

Last week she showed me her current textbook, which she will finish in a week and move up a level. She seemed very proud to show it to me, so I choked my laugh to a smirk when I saw a ‘way off the mark’ answer to a listening test question. Several ‘fill in the blank’ type sentences appeared on a page and students would listen to a recording and write the missing parts of the sentences. Here’s an example:

Could we go ________________?

She had carefully written in her answer:

Could we go __any who good__?

Upon reading the correct answer, I could fully understand how a Japanese person could get these sounds confused; however, I wondered to myself, “Does she think that is a sensible sentence?” Actually, the sentence is:

Could we go __and eat fugu__?

In English we have no set rules about liaison as in French; however, most speakers will use liaison heavily. Japanese people have immense difficulty hearing this. Even simple phrases like, “And you?”, come out sounding like, “Anne do?” Also, ‘fugu’ resulting in ‘who good’ was good for some chuckles. Sounds like ‘hoo’ and ‘foo’ are hard to distinguish because in Japanese a sound between these two is made and typically the lower lip never touches the upper teeth.

For the record, ‘fugu’ (ふぐ・河豚) is often translated as ‘blowfish’, ‘puffer fish’, or ‘globe fish’.

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