Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Musings: Language and Appearances - It's Tough Being A Singaporean Gaijin

Like I promised yesterday, here's part two! It's not really about being Gaijin, but it's about three comments that I've got a lot. It's really my personal experience so far. 

Lately, I've noticed that I've been getting the following three comments a lot. As of, well, now, I haven't been able to formate a suitable reply. In fact, if you know the correct way to respond, I would be really really grateful.

The first comment is "Wow, your Japanese is great!".

Um, no, it's not. I can function in society, but my brain is always trying to figure out the right things to say, and trust me, I have never been good at grammar - English OR Japanese (I'm still trying to figure out if Chinese has grammar).

Personally, I think that this comment stems from the fact that I'm a foreigner who happens to understand most of what is being said and can give fairly coherent replies. I'm currently reply with the truth ("No, I'm terrible"), but still, I wonder why I get this comment so often.

And with this first comment comes the second "Your English is great!" (or some variation of this).

While the compliment is very sweet, I honestly can't reply to this. Really, I consider myself to have a barely adequate grasp of English (My English really has de-proved since I got here). Besides, if I accept the compliment, I feel like I'm sending a subtext of "I'm better at English nyah nyah nyah". On the other hand, if I go "no no, I'm terrible", I'm not quite sure how my friend will feel. Especially if I'm helping them with English.

This really feels like a Catch-22.

The last comment, well, I've posted it on Google+ before. While I consider myself to look like a typical Singaporean (Singaporean-Chinese if you want to be nitpicky about categories), I've been told that I look Japanese. By Japanese people. I understood the whole Japanese/Korean mistake when I went to America, but I'm in Japan! I dress and speak funny!

And I know that I don't fit in because a little boy at kendo told me "so that's why your Japanese is so strange!" when he found out I'm Singaporean. Well, he also thought I was 12-13 years old but the point remains valid!

Normally, I just smile and say something like "oh really?" but recently, I was told "You don't look Singaporean." I'm sure the speaker meant it nicely, but it hurt somehow. I love Japan, but I'm still Singaporean to the core.
Spot the non-Japanese person here (I really hope my
friends don't get mad about my posting the photo here too)

ETA: Read Part 1 here