I once told an eighty-year-old Japanese woman that I had a full vagina. I was a guest in her home, which was tucked away in a tiny village on Shikoku, the smallest of Japan’s four main islands. She offered me a third helping of Okonomiyaki, and I waved my hand in front of my face and said, “Oh no, thank you, my vagina is full.”
I meant stomach.
I more than stumble and struggle through foreign languages. I destroy them. Seriously. My mouth is a linguistic flame-thrower. But I at least try. I truly believe that when in Rome, you should speak… er… Japanese.
At lease that’s what I speak.
You see Japanese was the first foreign language I butchered… I mean learnt. But before long I discovered that wherever I was in the world, no matter how I tried to learn the local language, I’d open my mouth and out came Japanese.
It didn’t go down well in Hong Kong, let me tell you.
Although the French seemed to at least appreciate that I spoke something other than English.
I actually went to language school while I was living in Vienna. I passed numerous German exams, and on paper did exceptionally well. But whenever I tried to converse at a party…
Not even good Japanese.
I once went to a dentist in Tokyo. I was a bit nervous, and tried to express my nerves (utter fear).
“I think dentists are scary” was the sentence I managed to piece together.
The dentist looked thrilled and his nurse giggled into her hand. Perhaps they didn’t hear me… so again.
“I think dentists are scary.”
The dentist puffed out his chest and strutted around the room, while the nurse giggled even more. It was only later when I recounted the story to a friend that she pointed out that “scary” and “cute” are similar in Japanese, and I’d been saying the latter. “I think dentists are cute.”
Although I’ve got to say it was the most painless filling I’d ever had.
I wish I spoke more than one language. However, I have always managed to meet, converse with, and connect with people around the world. As Thoreau said, “The language of friendship is not words but meanings.”
I always mean well… I just didn’t mean vagina!