When I walk into the school, I’m prepared to understand nothing.
That isn’t to say I won’t understand, or even worse, that I won’t listen. I’ll go in eager to make sense of everything. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and all that.
Vice Principal: おはようございます！ Good morning ###-sensei!
Me: Good morning.
Phew, good. We’re at 100% in the speaking category. Let’s keep this streak up.
1st grade teacher: おはようございます！ちゃんと朝ごはん食べた？
1st grade teacher: またニンジン？もう嫌だ！
Survived my first conversation! Everyone knows I love eating carrots for breakfast. It was only natural that something like this would pop up.
But when the science teacher and the math teacher started talking, my comprehension shot to 5%. Maaaaaaan. I thought I was doing so well too.
When it comes to language competency, everyone has different marks to hit. For the longest time, I focused my efforts on reading, and it bore some neat fruit. I’m confident I could beat any RPG now without looking at a dictionary or guide. I still go to the dictionary to learn new words and phrases, but if I get tired of that, I can go long distances sans-dict without worrying that I’m missing too much. These days, game developers generally make getting from point A to B easy enough that a child can do it. And I possess a child’s level of competence.
And yet, when kids are talking amongst each other, I can get just as lost as when the adults are. People know to slow down or monitor their language in front of me. Or even if they can’t do that, they know the conversation topics that’ve come about in the past. Native speakers talking to other native speakers don’t worry about my eavesdropping. In fact, they shouldn’t.
It’s authentic, and that’s good. I’m learning from it. More importantly, I’m not slowing them down. That said, it’s proof that I need to keep moving. Just because I can survive here doesn’t mean I’m living to the fullest. Survival is just the beginning. If I keep working, even those conversations will eventually make sense.
Look at how far you’ve come. Look at that beauty! Realize the difference between your former self and your present self. I used to be that…thing!? But don’t just buy a bunch of food and leave it to rot. Fuel yourself with what you have!
And if your food rots like mine does, consider using it anyways? I’m not really sure where the metaphor’s going.