Don't Be Afraid to Make Mistakes
You may make many mistakes, both linguistically and culturally, but you can always play the “
Everyone Is a Potential Teacher
While traveling in Japan, treat everyone as a potential instructor of Japanese language. Some “teachers” may be subtle in their instruction. A widely used technique is to repeat back to you the correct version of what you are trying to say, so pay close attention. The gas station attendant, your server at the restaurant, and the sushi chef can provide valuable lessons in grammar, vocabulary, syntax, and pronunciation.
Utilizing a few simple phrases will get you through a variety of situations:
Is my Japanese okay?
What is this in Japanese?
If you have questions about how to conjugate a verb, you can list the options and then add:
Which one is right?
Heart to Heart Communication
Grammar plays an essential role in all languages. It helps to discern requests from commands and identifies what is being done to whom. But when it comes down to real communication, sincerity and determination play the leading roles.
Many Japanese teachers of English, until recently, focused on the acquisition of vocabulary and boring grammar, causing many students to despise their English lessons. These same kids who slept through English class are delighted to find that when communicating with foreigners, earnestness counts much more than word order when conveying what it is they want to say.
The same goes for Japanese. Forget grammar if it gives you a headache. Draw on your creative resources when giving explanations. Use what you do remember and let the rest come through in your facial expressions and body language.
If you're an Asian American, a Japanese person may expect you to be fluent in Japanese. It can be frustrating to constantly explain your situation. Try to handle it in the way that is most comfortable for you. As the number of people in Japan with multicultural heritage grows, hopefully, so will understanding of the unique challenges involved with growing up with multiple languages and customs.