Turning Japanese

24 Feb

Have I told you before that we have a Japanese neighbor? I’ll call her Yoko, only because for over a year I couldn’t remember her real name and, well, she does look a tiny bit like Yoko Ono. Yoko doesn’t live here in VT all the time, she also lives in CA and has spent lots of time traveling back and forth to Japan. Her son owns a snowboarding company – they make all sorts of things, like snowboards (duh) and jackets and everything you’d need to look extremely stylish on the slopes. And her husband is an amazing photographer who, thankfully, doesn’t mind when I pick his brain about cameras and lenses and all things photography.

Recently Yoko was diagnosed with cancer while she was here in VT, which meant that she and her husband had to stay here for almost the entire winter, something that they don’t generally do. Yoko’s husband’s California blood made him very cold for most of the time he was here, but he endured. Fortunately her cancer was caught early and she has now been declared cancer-free, which means that the got to go back to CA for awhile (apparently they’re up in the mountains now, though, and once again surrounded by snow! Poor Yoko’s husband).

Yoko was born and raised in Japan and even though she’s spent over 20 years in the US, she still has problems with certain sounds. For instance it took her a long time to learn how to pronounce Randi. I didn’t think that Randi was a hard name, but the R sound was difficult for her to get. To this day there are still times she calls me “Wandi”. And while she can pronounce Toad’s name easily, Babygirl’s name, which is is only a 2 syllable name, somehow becomes a 3 syllable name with her.

We love Yoko to bits and every time they come back to VT, we rush up to see them and to talk about how they’ve been. Yoko has an extremely giving heart and tends to want to give all of her stuff away. It’s rare that we walk out of her house without anything extra in our arms, even though we continually tell her that we don’t want anything, just to visit with her! She has no grandchildren yet and dotes on Babygirl and Toad, buying them clothes and all sorts of treats. And she loves Scott like a second son.

One thing that I’m fortunate enough to do is to review products for Amazon. Every month I get a list to pick four items from. Sometimes they’re books, sometimes they’re printers, sometimes they’re, well, practically anything. This month one of the things that popped up on my reviewing list was the Rosetta stone product to teach you how to speak Japanese! I couldn’t believe it! This program is over $500 and I got it for free to review.

It arrived yesterday and the kids and I immediately loaded it onto my laptop. It comes with a nifty headset and mic so that you can truly learn Japanese. On the box it talks about “immersing you in the Japanese language”. I figured you’d speak an English word, then the Japanese equivalent in order to learn how to speak Japanese.

Ha! Totally wrong!

When they say total immersion, they mean total immersion. From the get-go you’re only spoken to in Japanese, which means that you have to do your best to keep up with the words. You’re tested on vocabulary and how you pronounce the words and syllables and you’re even asked to learn how to read those squiggles that the Japanese call writing.

So for the past day and a half I’ve been walking around muttering Japanese phrases, trying to remember the difference between girl “oon-no-noko” and boy “otoko-noko”, as well as the difference between man and woman. The only easy one for me? Juice! They pronounce juice “juice-ah”. Heh, that one I can get.

My hopes is that when Yoko and her husband come back in a few weeks, we’ll at least be able to say a small phrase or two. She gives us so much and I know that she’d be tickled pink if both the kids and I were able to speak a bit to her in her native tongue.

She’ll also think that it’s appropriate as she’s trying to marry Toad off to her friend’s young daughter in Japan. Yes, they seriously wish that we could set up an arranged marriage between my 10 year old and her 6 year old. While I’m not going to consent to that, I’m sort of hoping that as they grow older they’ll totally fall in love, and then I’ll totally have a Japanese daughter-in-law, and some cute little Japanese “oon-no-noko’s” and “otkok-noko’s” for grandchildren.

Yeah, I know, “what will be will be” – but hey, I can dream, right?

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