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Saturday, Nov. 17, 2001

JAPAN LITE

The first step to happy marriage . . . zu


Today I bring you "Real Conversations From the English Classroom."

You will notice that I am not a very effective English teacher. The only evidence I have taught my students anything is that most have acquired "latent 's' syndrome," in which they add the "s" plural as an afterthought, after prompting by their teacher. Rather than producing the "s" sound, however, they produce a heavily accented "zu." The plural "apples" thus becomes "apple . . . zu."

Now let's listen in on some of my English conversation classes for adults. These are "free conversation" classes, and today everyone wanted to talk about marriage.

My first class was a group of female dentists. Ai brought in her wedding photo album.

Ai: This is my wedding photo . . . zu.

Me: Oh, a Shinto wedding?

Ai: Yes. Very traditional. Me in white kimono!

Me: How beautiful. What's this? You also had a Christian wedding?

Ai: No.

Me: Then why do you have a picture of yourself in a white wedding dress and a picture of you and your husband in front of a chapel?

Ai: Not real chapel. At photo studio.

Me: I see. When was the wedding?

Ai: March 10. But we marriage Jan. 1st. In Japan we register the marriage first, then have wedding later.

Me: Was the registrar opened on Jan. 1st? Isn't that a holiday?

Ai: Yes. Many people want to marriage Jan. 1st. So open. I stand in line.

Me: With your husband?

Ai: No. He stayed home and watch TV.

"Where is Emi today?" I ask them.

Jun: Emi retire English class. She has big stomach.

Me: She's pregnant?

Jun: Yes, yes, pregnant.

Me: She's not married, is she?

Jun: No. But she will marriage soon.

Me: Oh. Is that OK in Japan? To get pregnant before you're married?

Jun: OK. Now, normal. Almost people same. Get pregnant, then get marriage.

Ai: Except me! Because I marriage after two month . . . zu of meeting my husband.

Me: Aya, how was your weekend?

Aya: Last weekend, I went to Tokyo with my mother to meet my sister's boyfriend.

Me: If your mother went, then that means your sister's relationship with her boyfriend must be serious.

Aya: No, not so serious.

Me: Did your father go to Tokyo too?

Aya: No. If father goes, then serious. So father can't go.

My next class was the Rotary Club. This class is all men except for Mrs. Sueyoshi, who attends with her husband.

Mrs. Sueyoshi: My son will marriage soon.

Me: Really? Congratulations. Have you met your son's fiancee?

Mrs. S.: We meet last week.

Me: What does she do?

Mrs. S.: Uh, hmm, I don't know. My son doesn't talk much about her.

Me: I see. What does your son do?

Mrs. S.: He work for running water bureau. Maybe.

I love teaching free conversation classes, because my students give me firsthand information about Japanese culture. It does help that I can speak Japanese so I can understand better what they are trying to say in English.

Despite the latent "s" syndrome my students have acquired, I still doubt I'm an effective English teacher. I heard Mrs. Sueyoshi lamenting to some students who were absent last class, "Last week we tried to talk about terrorism but Amy's Japanese wasn't good enough, so we couldn't talk about it."

Contact Amy Chavez by e-mail at amychavez@excite.com. To subscribe to "Japan Lite" for free, go to www.amychavez.com.


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