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Is this accurate?

PatPaul

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Hello,

My wife told me during the heat of an argument that she and her family had expected my Japanese to be a lot better by now. I used Google Translate. I have lived in Japan for a long time and my proficiency level is low.

私たちはあなたの日本語が今までにずっと良くなることを期待していました

PatPaul
 

nice gaijin

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well, you at least interpreted that correctly!
pretty rude assertion and a bad approach on their behalf, but not an unusual sentiment I think.

Is this something you intend to improve on, or do you find yourself unwilling or unable to make progress?

I don't know if this is an actual saying or something I just keep repeating, but I like to say that expectation is the seed of disappointment... 期待は誤解の種です。
 

mdchachi

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Hello,

My wife told me during the heat of an argument that she and her family had expected my Japanese to be a lot better by now. I used Google Translate. I have lived in Japan for a long time and my proficiency level is low.

私たちはあなたの日本語が今までにずっと良くなることを期待していました

PatPaul
I'm guessing if your wife didn't speak to you in English all these years that would have been the case. So you can blame her. ;)
Ironically one of the attractions to you in the first place was probably the English speaking. So the joke is on her.
 

bentenmusume

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Do we know for a fact that the OP's wife has been less than supportive of his attempts to learn Japanese throughout the years?

If she's encouraged him to improve his skills so they could communicate in both languages, and feels he hasn't held up his end of the bargain, the frustration could be completely legitimate.

By no means am I saying PatPaul is absolutely to blame, but saying that his wife is being "rude" or "the joke's on her" seems a bit harsh and presumptuous without more knowledge of what discussions they've had about the matter in the time they've been together.
 

salyavin

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As you live in Japan most areas believe it or not have some free or super cheap Japanese class to help you get started. How To Find Cheap – or Free – Japanese Lessons in Tokyo | Tokyo Weekender I have seen them in some rural areas as well. If you are serious about the relationship I would try to get started if at all possible. Often a spouse is not the best teacher and they had been expecting you to improve so I would look into those things and not depend on the wife to teach you. It may be good to find some friends as well whom are Japanese. I found some English speakers only hang out with English speakers, you need to widen your circle. You are surrounded by the language every day you can do it! You have a good use for it living there and having Japanese family so you may be surprised how you may improve. Please do not be afraid of making mistakes, that is expected and is how you learn. You got this! If you show effort I am sure the family will be pleased as well.
 

nice gaijin

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By no means am I saying PatPaul is absolutely to blame, but saying that his wife is being "rude" or "the joke's on her" seems a bit harsh and presumptuous without more knowledge of what discussions they've had about the matter in the time they've been together.

"I expected you to be better at this by now" is a pretty rude and unhelpful assertion, no matter how supportive she may have been in the past. There's certainly more than one side to this story, but if that's verbatim what he was told, it is what it is.
 

salyavin

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Well we don't know enough. I can easily imagine it is pent up frustration at the perception of lack of effort at learning the language of the country he lives in and the language his family speaks. He was straight up that he has lived there a while and has not learned a lot. He should be able to start making effort and even the showing of effort should help. Living in Japan he'll have many opportunities to make a start. Depending on his job time may be tight but I am sure he can make some somewhere. I feel he has a positive path forward he can choose to take.
 

mdchachi

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By no means am I saying PatPaul is absolutely to blame, but saying that his wife is being "rude" or "the joke's on her" seems a bit harsh and presumptuous without more knowledge of what discussions they've had about the matter in the time they've been together.
I was just joking around. And I was also relating it to my own situation. Years ago, I deliberately avoided dating girls who spoke good English. It was a deliberate strategy to work on my Japanese. And now decades later I don't speak in my native language with my wife even though we live in the U.S. So joke's on me. I wouldn't be surprised if one of the original draws in the relationship was the fact that he spoke English.
 

salyavin

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I did date some english speakers but the one I married did not speak English. Today in the US we also only speak Japanese at home so my wife does have limited English. A part of that is trying to raise our children to be billingual. My wife does speak some limited English now but I am not putting any expectation on her to learn English. This does limit her job prospects but she is a homemaker, men often have a stronger pressure to bring home a good income. I am guessing the wife wants him to be more independent. I knew a guy in Tokyo who is still here who has done basically eikaiwa since the 80s and still has unusable Japanese but his wife is OK with it. I met another one once here in the US who did some form of english teaching since the 70s retired and came here and could not read hiragana and wanted me to read something in just hiragana for him at some event which I obliged I don't know him other than that 20 minute interaction I am guessing no Japanese spouse. These people are around and I see how it happens when I watch them all their friends speak English they go to the "gaijin bar" they speak English at home, really not so different than my wife and I except with my wife not learning English well. My wife's friends are from the school or other Japanese (typically moms) that we know via mama kai or some such so basically the same kind of thing. So I'm not in any position to bash. I figure the PatPaul can make an effort to learn some Japanese via classes (many are free and cheap) and he might even find cheap books at bookoff or the like get some basics down and start doing something maybe join a sports team or some hobby and meet Japanese people and you can make friends who won't just use you for English teaching. The wife and family have an expection, I think he can start working on that, he can have a better home life is what I figure. One thing you (mdchachi) and I did that is different than many is we did not do eikaiwa jobs or military so our experience via corporations is quite different than others as well. bentenmusume sounds like he is in academia and is very high level, I know little about that world, those are more rare than the worker bees.
 

bentenmusume

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I was just joking around. And I was also relating it to my own situation. Years ago, I deliberately avoided dating girls who spoke good English. It was a deliberate strategy to work on my Japanese. And now decades later I don't speak in my native language with my wife even though we live in the U.S. So joke's on me. I wouldn't be surprised if one of the original draws in the relationship was the fact that he spoke English.
I know what you're saying (and can relate to everything I bolded in the quote above, which is exactly the same as my situation except that we live in Japan). Anyhow, I didn't mean to be dour or humorless about the situation (though I was reluctant to make a joke, as the tone of the OP sounded somewhat grave).

bentenmusume sounds like he is in academia and is very high level, I know little about that world, those are more rare than the worker bees.
Just to clarify, I'm not really "in academia". I did a graduate degree in Japanese literature back in my twenties, but for the past fifteen years or so I've been a "worker bee" in Japan as well (first with the government, then in a corporate position, now as a freelancer/consultant).

But yes, I suppose the original point I was trying to make speaks to some of the other examples in your (salyavin's) post. I'm certainly not trying to cast PatPaul in a negative light. Like you say, I agree that there's still plenty of time and opportunity for him to improve his Japanese, and if can manage to do so, it'll not only help smooth out his relationship at home but also make his life in Japan more rewarding and fulfilling overall.

I guess I was just trying to point out that I've seen first-hand plenty of cases where a native English speaker long-term resident of Japan makes little (or at least insufficient) effort to learn the Japanese language and remain highly (or even entirely) dependent on others after years or even decades of living here, and in that case the frustration and stress felt by the spouse/family can be very real and justified. (Again, not presuming that this is the case with PatPaul, but just speaking in general terms.) But I imagine we're all in agreement there, so no use beating this dead horse any longer.
 

musicisgood

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Sadly I wish my wife would speak Japanese to me. But I'm on this forum because I need translations and actually my living environment is 100% English.
And I mean absolutely no Japanese has spoken to me by my wife.
 

salyavin

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If your wife is OK (unlike the top poster of this thread) you can get by the rest of your life that way. You are much more limited and totally dependent on your wife though. I believe you are retired so job prospects don't come into it for you either. I still think it is a good idea as you can enjoy and understand so much more if you can at least get by in Japanese. You might check for those volunteer run courses in your prefecture. Here are some more examples. List of Free and Affordable Japanese Classes Near You in Japan - By Prefecture - Blog I believe you are more rural so finding books in bookoff is not as likely but I bet you can find some online for cheap. Once you get through the basics my suggestion is always find some group, club or something you like to do and do it with japanese people so they speak Japanese with you. Even talking to the guys while fishing or something. I think you will find it rewarding. I know why you are there and I think that is very honourable.
 

bentenmusume

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mdchachi said:
You can change that if you turn on the TV. :)

Or if he leaves the house and goes...well, basically anywhere. (Which, admittedly, isn't as easy to do in the COVID-19 age.)

Sadly I wish my wife would speak Japanese to me. But I'm on this forum because I need translations and actually my living environment is 100% English.
And I mean absolutely no Japanese has spoken to me by my wife.

Just out of curiosity, has your wife always been resistant to the idea of you learning/practicing Japanese? Was the topic never raised at all in all the years you've been together? Back in university, or when I first came to Japan, I would occasionally encounter girls who would insist on speaking English all the time (no doubt a conscious decision to improve their language skills—which I can't blame them for since I was essentially trying to do the opposite), but it seems odd that someone would actively choose to prevent their spouse/life partner from learning their native language so they could improve their life in Japan, speak with family, etc. and so forth.

Anyhow, I don't mean to pry or be rude. Just curious.

salyavin said:
Once you get through the basics my suggestion is always find some group, club or something you like to do and do it with japanese people so they speak Japanese with you. Even talking to the guys while fishing or something. I think you will find it rewarding. I know why you are there and I think that is very honourable.
But yes, like salyavin said, finding people who share your interests (be it music, fishing, whatever) who you can shoot the breeze with in Japanese could probably go a long way to helping you pick stuff up, once you have the basics down.
 

mdchachi

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But yes, like salyavin said, finding people who share your interests (be it music, fishing, whatever) who you can shoot the breeze with in Japanese could probably go a long way to helping you pick stuff up, once you have the basics down.
I agree with this. Having a number of friends who couldn't speak English and really had no particular interest in speaking English helped me a lot. First group was a bar I hanged out at. One of those tiny places with a counter and no more than 12 seats. Eventually I was such a part of the group that I joined the master/mama along with several regulars on an onsen/ryokan weekend. Another group was a tennis circle that I joined, initially as a friend of a friend kind of thing. And then, stemming from that group, I joined a group of motorcyclists and we took occasional day and weekend trips. They on their big oogata bikes and me on my little 400cc chuu-gata. I think the longest bike trip with them was perhaps from Tokyo to Sado Island (Niigata). Also some scuba diving trips etc. The advantage to meeting with a variety of people in a variety of situations you invariably learn a lot more vocabulary.
 

musicisgood

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Or if he leaves the house and goes...well, basically anywhere. (Which, admittedly, isn't as easy to do in the COVID-19 age.)



Just out of curiosity, has your wife always been resistant to the idea of you learning/practicing Japanese? Was the topic never raised at all in all the years you've been together? Back in university, or when I first came to Japan, I would occasionally encounter girls who would insist on speaking English all the time (no doubt a conscious decision to improve their language skills—which I can't blame them for since I was essentially trying to do the opposite), but it seems odd that someone would actively choose to prevent their spouse/life partner from learning their native language so they could improve their life in Japan, speak with family, etc. and so forth.

Anyhow, I don't mean to pry or be rude. Just curious.


But yes, like salyavin said, finding people who share your interests (be it music, fishing, whatever) who you can shoot the breeze with in Japanese could probably go a long way to helping you pick stuff up, once you have the basics down.
actually to tell you the truth my wife doesn't have the patience to sit down and even speak to me in her language let alone teach me but I do have what they call a slow learning curve so I can't really really shoot and grab my wife.
But even then I have much patience with her so I don't bring up the issue of speak Japanese to me very often over the years. The fact that that she goes everywhere with me where it's really dead necessary whether it's to the hospital the police station what years ago it would be the dentist but that I handle myself these days but calling a taxi or making a hotel reservations out of town and she's there for that type of help but trying to get her to speak basic Japanese half in the morning to me is she just won't connect with it.
On the social scene I'm very sociable I don't like to sit at the house I'm outside cycling I go as you can see by my pictures I go outside I go fishing I mingle with the fisherman I mingle with anybody that really wants to talk with me and unfortunately they all speak English.
when I had my scooters I would go out of town and with the motorcycle people and I was pretty well known because well first of all the color of my motor scooter and then second I was in Foreigner who couldn't speak Japanese so it was like oh man here comes this guy Gene so everything was really cool and many times they bought me the coffee and the can just to sit down and talk in English.
but the post I put here for translations it's pretty much events in my life that I need to know mostly like real quickly.
the bottom line is my hands have been tied all these years and I won't go into detail about it but it's I really wouldn't wish a foreigner to have the position that I've had to be in although it's like a roller coaster it's up and down nice and smooth get those curves with a lot of fun but falling off is not fun.
 

Majestic

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A lot of times native speakers aren't very good teachers of their own language. Native speakers often don't have a technical, or, should I say, a logical understanding of their own language. They just know how to speak it because they have grown up with it. For example, in the west we don't have "object markers" or "topic markers", so when we ask native Japanese speakers to explain particles like は, が, を, in a way we can easily understand, the native Japanese speaker might not have the tools or the vocabulary to do this. Frustrating for both of us, because it seems so simple.

Also, the native speaker might not be aware of the completely different use of language by a foreign person. If I go back to Musicisgood's thread where he asked how to say, "I need a driver's license", this was a very good opportunity to try to write it himself using a dictionary and some vocabulary he already knows, and then asking his wife to correct it. HOWEVER, his wife might not be prepared to explain how/why Japanese grammar works the way it does, and so it could end up being stressful for both.

For instance, like Bentenmusume said, the Japanese translation will depend on the context: are you asking for a license, or are you explaining something about a license? Are you asking a friend? Or are you at the counter of the local driving exam office? The words and phrases you use will probably change depending on the situation. It's not as simple as overwriting the English words with Japanese words. Already this might be too complicated for Musicisgood's wife to dive into. Or, it could be ground that has been well-travelled in the past, and she might not want to get into it again.

Japanese language forces you to make judgments about status and roles and education, in a way that isn't required in the west.

1. I need a license.
2. I would like to have a license.
3. If its OK with you, could you possibly grant me a license.
4. So sorry to bother you, it appears that I might need to have a license, so even though I know its a very busy day for you, could I humbly beg of you the huge favor of granting me a license?

Its easy enough to translate the first one into English, but it ends up being a very elementary statement; crude, abrupt, childlike (perhaps), and maybe even rude. It gets the point across, but my wife would cringe if I said something the wrong way. She would always push me for the 4th version - the most polite, but most complicated and taxing version. People without an understanding of all of this context might just say, "just give me a direct translation of #1", but in the real world of adults, that #1 version needs to be handled very carefully, and its a lot of work for native Japanese speakers to explain all of this. But first, English/Western speakers need to be aware that the use of the language reveals things about themselves.

Going back to PatPaul's original post: I wonder if they have patched things up. In the heat of argument, our partners can be pretty rude, and they can say hurtful things. Maybe its time to make a commitment to the language, and don't allow yourself to make any excuses. Set aside an hour a day to learn Japanese, or to learn kanji. Set yourself a goal of hitting a certain level of the JLPT test (I will pass the JLPT4 this year, or something like that). Trying to pick up Japanese by osmosis only works for infants.
 

bentenmusume

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Majestic said:
For instance, like Bentenmusume said, the Japanese translation will depend on the context: are you asking for a license, or are you explaining something about a license? Are you asking a friend? Or are you at the counter of the local driving exam office? The words and phrases you use will probably change depending on the situation. It's not as simple as overwriting the English words with Japanese words. Already this might be too complicated for Musicisgood's wife to dive into. Or, it could be ground that has been well-travelled in the past, and she might not want to get into it again.

Japanese language forces you to make judgments about status and roles and education, in a way that isn't required in the west.

1. I need a license.
2. I would like to have a license.
3. If its OK with you, could you possibly grant me a license.
4. So sorry to bother you, it appears that I might need to have a license, so even though I know its a very busy day for you, could I humbly beg of you the huge favor of granting me a license?

Just wanted to voice my agreement with all of Majestic's points. I'd also like to emphasize that it's not just about politeness and register.

Even if you don't particularly care how polite you do or don't sound, the appropriate phrasing will be completely different if you're making a request, simply explaining the situation to a third party, or whatever. It's unlikely that you'd need to be as deferential as #4 to a simple service employee, but if you don't use the right wording, they might be confused about what it is you actually want.

This is why when you're asking for a Japanese phrase to use for practical purposes (i.e. and not just a direct translation of something you've seen or heard), it's best not to phrase your request as "I need a translation of this English into Japanese" but "I need to convey this point in this context. How do I say it in Japanese?".

Anyway, if you can give us clarification in your other thread, we can do our best to help you.

Majestic said:
A lot of times native speakers aren't very good teachers of their own language. Native speakers often don't have a technical, or, should I say, a logical understanding of their own language. They just know how to speak it because they have grown up with it. For example, in the west we don't have "object markers" or "topic markers", so when we ask native Japanese speakers to explain particles like は, が, を, in a way we can easily understand, the native Japanese speaker might not have the tools or the vocabulary to do this. Frustrating for both of us, because it seems so simple.
This is also very true. I would say less than one-tenth of 1% of all native Japanese speakers (and even that estimate might be generous) can explain their own language as well as our esteemed @Toritoribe さん. ;)

As a native English speaker who learned Japanese as a second language, I feel like I have a sense of how to explain things (as in many cases, I've had to figure them out and internalize them myself), but at the same time, I still lack a native speaker's intuition about many things (despite my best efforts to develop an approximation of it through extended exposure). I suppose what I'm saying is that there's no "perfect" teacher, so the bulk of the effort is always going to have to come from the student's side.
 

Buntaro

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she and her family had expected my Japanese to be a lot better by now.

Your wife and her family are doing a terrible thing. Some people just do not have the ability to learn a language at a high level. To 'accuse' them of this is a mistake. Take my situation as an example. I have a 'talent' for speaking Japanese. However, I have also lived in China and I do NOT have a 'talent' for learning Chinese. That is just how it is. To demand language ability above a person's 'natural limit' is just wrong.
 

bentenmusume

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I'm not sure I agree with this. Does every individual have a different aptitude for language learning? Sure. Does this natural ability (or lack thereof) dictate some absolute ceiling to which that person may ever progress, to the point that there are a significant number of people who simply lack the "natural talent" to ever become communicative or literate in a given language despite their best efforts? I would doubt that very, very much.

I'm not talking about achieving perfect, near-native fluency as an adult second-language learner. Perhaps that will only be achievable by those with a certain innate talent and an all-consuming passion and drive to master the language. But I think it's reasonable to say that even those who lack a natural talent for language learning can, with the right resources/teacher, motivation, and dedicated effort, reach a point where they can function as adults in a foreign language environment.

I mean, look at how many immigrants to the U.S. through the years have managed to learn English to at least a functional, working level because it was an absolute necessity to survive and provide for their families. Do you believe they were all just naturally gifted at languages? Or is it just that they had no "bubble" or community of fellow speakers of their native language to fall back on (or chose not to fall back on that bubble even if it existed)?

To just assume the OP's current Japanese level is his absolute limit as defined by natural abilities beyond his control, and that his wife and her family are "terrible" for not simply accepting that he will never be able to meaningfully communicate with them in Japanese any more than he already can strikes me as rather defeatist, and somewhat presumptuous and discourteous to all parties involved.

(edited a bit for clarity)
 
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bentenmusume

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Just to further clarify my point above, I can understand why people might find the sentiment somewhat insensitive (though, to be honest, there are _far_ more mean-spirited hurtful ways that this could have been expressed than what's given in the OP, which is fairly mild and not particularly accusatory).

I simply don't believe that holding someone to a higher standard of language ability—particularly if the lack of ability is imposing upon other members of the family—is, in and of itself, some rude, terrible, or unconscionable thing.

Telling the OP, essentially, "you just don't have the talent to get better at Japanese, and your wife/her family are horrible people for not understanding/accepting this" seems like a rather uncharitable assessment of the situation and everyone in it.
 
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