9.03.2008

I just eavesdropped on a Japanese conversation

I hear different languages every day, but I don't hear Japanese that much, even though I live near the Japanese Consulate and work near a Japanese company. Tonight I walked to the store, and heard a couple of women talking. I didn't zone in on what they were saying because sometimes I initially think people are speaking Japanese when they're really speaking Korean (I can tell the difference between the two languages btw, but I need to get accustomed to them when I hear them in a sea of English).

The two women were talking about areas of Chicago, and I was psyched! There weren't many people around, so I could try to figure out what they were saying. The problem was that I looked like a creep because I slowed my usual fast pace to hover within close proximity to their voices. At times I couldn't hear them, so I slowed down even more to the point where someone might think we were part of the same group. I wonder if they noticed that I was eavesdropping. Eventually they drifted away, and I couldn't hear everything they were saying due to wind and traffic. But at least I heard something.

What I could figure out was that the younger woman was either born in the US or had spent quite a bit of time here, because she would occasionally throw in teeny English phrases, but very briefly, as if it was natural for her to switch between the two languages. Plus, even though her accent was good, it wasn't as "native" as the older woman. Bottom line: that younger woman is lucky to be fluent in both (which I'm assuming she is).

Now I have to get in the habit of eavesdropping on my ESL students because they often speak Spanish and my Spanish at this point is quite lame, and I have plenty of chances to at least get my ear used to it and even practice once in a while.

8 comments:

Sarah M Dillon said...

oh I LOVE eavesdropping on other languages. It was the best thing about living in London, very thrilling, and I didn't even have to try very hard to find 'victims'!! A non-event here in Brisbane though... maybe I'm just not hanging out in the right places...

mj said...

I think if I lived in Australia or Ireland, I'd be eavesdropping on their English :D

heather-in-italia said...

I can relate to this post having studied Japanese for six years myself! I just love walking into a touristy Beatrix Potter or Jane Austen shop in Britain only to discover a gaggle of Japanese tourists grouped over cheesy souvineers, chatting away with a quiet kind of assurance that no one can understand them. My dad and I call these moments JTA - Japanese Tourist Alerts. Great blog by the way - I have enjoyed reading it so far.

mj said...

Thanks--and I share in your wanderlust though I haven't been able to partake for a while due to marriage and life in Chicago--but I'd love to go to FRANCE!

sandraverdugo said...

I find your blog excellent for my reading hours..I usually know if its japanese or korean by the accent.. all thanks to the dramas i watch -_-.. I find myself trying to comprehend japanese students, at times i just get plainly lost but it helps me practice seeing actual conversations in daily life...

mj said...

Thanks for the compliment--eavesdrop as much as you can--I don't see Japanese people so often, so I don't get many chances.

gamerslinc said...

when i was with my previous employer i usually eavesdrop on japanese people talking at the elevator. though i am not fluent in japanese i am familiar with some of their phrases and words. kawaii!!!!

mj said...

I just eavesdropped on some Japanese people last week--but I need more listening opportunities.