It has been 40 years since I lived in Japan. That is a whole generation ago. When I visit Japan, a flood of memories comes back as I meet with old friends and visit familiar places. When I left Japan, my level of Japanese was intermediate at best. Today, if anything, it has regressed a bit. At this point in my life, I just smile and accept the fact that I will most likely never become fluent.
There are advantages of not being fluent. I can be myself, the obnoxious foreigner, who doesn’t fully understand the Japanese mind and customs and be forgiven for my faux pas. As I get older, I seem to have more gaffs. In the past, it would annoy me, but now it amuses me. All in all, I have come to peace with myself, knowing my humanity and flaws.
When I met with my friend, I explained in Japanese that last October, the day I was supposed to leave for a trip with my daughter to Maryland, Washington DC, and New York, I tested positive for COVID and had to cancel my trip. I wanted to tell him that I had to “quarantine” (“kakuri” in Japanese) for over 10 days, instead I told him I committed adultery (“kan-in” in Japanese) for over 10 days!
Being a friend for over 40 years and knowing my Japanese skills, he politely paused, thought, then corrected my Japanese. What a gracious friend!
A warning to those who hang out with me when we go to Japan. Be wary of what I am saying in Japanese. You never know what misguided words might slip out!!!