Two random comments before the real stuff
1) I feel so connected to my real family right now, it’s great. I skyped with Mom, Dad, and Maria this morning for a little Christmas tradition we have. Maria and I both have one special Christmas ornament for each of our Christmases. I always get a Santa ornament, and she an angel. The ornament has to be representative of our year and this year we “skype” hung up our ornaments.
But Mom being Mom had found an awesome collapsible Santa Snow Globe ornament that she mailed to me earlier so I could take part as well. The fact that it’s a globe [and that we had to mail it!] surely fits the part well. It looks great on my Christmas tree here in Japan. What’s more, this week I have received gift packages from both my Grandma Estenson and Aunt Kathy and her family. It was lots of fun to have actual presents to open! Thank you all so much!
2) Today I went out to lunch with my host dad’s sisters, but he didn’t come. Haha it was my host mom, my two host aunts, and my host uncle. We ate Okonomiyaki (a Japanese mixed pancake of seafood, meat, veggies, eggs, and seasoning) which is easily one of my new favorite foods here in Japan. I will be a master Okonomiyakier by the time I return next summer. This picture of the peaking boy in a lime green house was a fun one to catch!
Now for the actual entry: I have been spending a lot of time in the school library lately due to testing and what not, so I’ve had much time simply to study. It sounds dumb but I have missed attending classes that I have to do homework for. I am now 3 ½ months into exchange and have never, no, not once, had homework of any sort. Don’t get me wrong, it’s certainly nice at times, but it’s odd to sit in classes that you don’t do any work for. I’ve never had that experience before. So to fill in my intellectual gap I have found a textbook on English essay writing for Japanese students of Tokyo University (one of the most respectable in Japan). It is written all in English by a Brit who has a fantastic way of describing what an essay should and shouldn’t include.
To be honest I am learning things about Japanese students, English students, and even English writing that I had never considered before. It’s Japanese students’ Basic English Writing 101 it is in basic English! Haha, but what the author adds is a comparison to Japanese writing styles. Because of that I learned a very interesting concept of Japanese vs. English communication that no one had ever told me before. Now that I look back on my past 3 months this makes perfect sense. I hope that anyone who is considering spending time, working, or living in Japan reads this before they leave. Japanese is a reader-responsible language, whereas English is heavily speaker-reliant. To best explain this, I’m going to include a paragraph from the textbook First Moves: An Introduction to Academic Writing in English by Paul Rossiter:
It has often been said that Japanese authors do not like to give clarifications or full explanations of their views when they write; both they and their readers seem to have greater tolerance for – and indeed a positive enjoyment for – ambiguity and imprecision than writers and readers in English. This difference may be the result of different views in the two cultures about who is responsible for successful communication. English speakers, by and large, see the writer, or speaker, as being primarily responsible for making clear and well-organized statements; if there is a breakdown in communication, it is because the speaker or writer has not been clear enough, not because the listener or reader has not tried hard enough to understand. In Japan, on the other hand, there is a different way of looking at the communication process. In Japan, it is generally thought to be the responsibility of the listener or reader to understand what the speaker or author intended to say. This difference may be illustrated by an anecdote. An American woman was taking a taxi to the Ginza Tokyu Hotel. The taxi driver mistakenly took her to the Ginza Daiichi Hotel. Being from a speaker-responsible culture, she said, “I’m sorry, I should have spoken more clearly.” The taxi driver demonstrated his listener-responsible background when he replied, “No, no, I should have listened more carefully” (Rossiter, 2004)
This one section has changed the way that I look at my relationship with my host parents and local Rotary counselor. In my mind they had been excessively vague, never telling me what they expected from me as an exchange student, and not introducing me to their friends, family, or community. There were many times when I was lost and confused (and it wasn’t just the language; my counselor speaks fluent English) but now I see that they are expecting me to draw connections and relationships that I as an English thinker would not necessarily think to create.
I hope all exchange students coming to Japan in the future know this before they arrive. It could potentially save them from some (but definitely not all!!) confusion.
Works Cited (this is for you, Cohrs and Mucha)
Rossiter, P. (2004). First moves: an introduction to academic writing in english. Tokyo, Japan: University of Tokyo Press.
PS. I’m officially on my 102nd page of size 14 Bradley Hand ITC font, single-spaced writing in Word Document. (I write the stories to each blog there and then copy them on online) SO MUCH WRITING!! But I've enjoyed it, I hope you have too= )