Monday, November 5, 2012

How Japanese is Like the Female Mind

That's right, Japanese and the Female mind, probably not two things you would usually put together, but that have more in common than you might think.

Difficult to understand 
I can't remember the exact details but on the first day of class our professor told us that when the government trains people to speak Japanese it takes about twice as much time as it does to learn a Latin based language because of it's difficulty to learn. And I think it's safe to say, heaven help the man, woman (yes, we can't even understand ourselves sometimes), or child that tries to fully understand the female mind.

Overly complicated. 
A girl will analyze something a hundred different times and a hundred different ways before deciding to come back to her original interpretation. Words always have to mean something else and hints or clues are a big part of communication. Japanese has two different "alphabets" (it's more of a phonetic thing that alphabet the way we think of roman letters) and a huge set of pictorial characters and you have to know all of them! There are different words and phrases for how far apart you are in status you are to a person and theoretically you can tell two people's relationship to each other entirely from the grammar that they use. You even use different words depending on what gender and how old you are.

It's all about the little details 
Japanese has an interesting characteristic known as particles. For those of you who don't know, it's kind of like speaking your implied grammar. You say things like "object marker", "topic marker",  "place maker", "possession marker" etc. So you say things that in English are usually implied by tone and emphasis. As a result the particles that you use can drastically change what you are saying means. I think we all know that girls are big into the details. This goes along with being overly complicated, but to a girls, one word you use or don't use or the way you look or a tiny thing can make all of the difference in how they feel about what was said.  

Clicks are where it's at 
While hopefully girls grow out of this eventually, they seem to travel in packs together. Rarely will you see just one girl doing something or standing somewhere and if girls do go somewhere by themselves, they generally tend to congregate towards other groups of girls and form new groups. In Japan the whole culture almost revolves around "in" groups and "out" groups, which seems to me to just be the adult word for clicks. The way that you talk to people in your out group changes from the way that you talk to people in your in group. The way that you treat those people and the way that you act around them is different too.

The less direct the better 
I feel incredibly sorry for anyone trying to DTR in Japan because I can only imagine what kind of a nightmare that would be. As a general rule in Japan the more cryptic and less specific you are the more polite it is. So whenever you can you try to be vague. Girls are always being cryptic. Although, the reason for this is a little different. In Japanese you aren't specific because it's polite ( I guess) but girls aren't specific because they want people to guess what they've left out. Girls play this weird game where they think that if a person knows them well they'll be able to read their mind and pick up on the hints they leave for people. The problem with this is, not only is it weird and a crazy thing to assume, but half of the time girls don't even know what they want, so I don't know how they expect anyone else to know. So the reasons are different but the outcome is the same, intense indirectness. 

Don't offend 
It seems like every other word in Japanese is a way to say "I'm sorry". Being polite is a huge deal and even if you didn't do anything specifically you seem to be apologizing all the time. It's the same with girls. Always they seem to be apologizing and freaking out and worried about offending other people and their feelings. I'm not necessarily saying that it's a bad thing, just that it happens. 

So, Japanese and the Female mind, more alike than you might think right? So what does this mean in terms of seeing things with gratitude? Well obviously I'm grateful that now guys can learn Japanese and better understand how the female mind works! In all seriousness though, I'm grateful that I'm finally (at least I feel like) starting to get a handle on this darn language and even with all of my whining about  a month ago I'm starting to like it again. I really like the kids in my class, my TA's and even the teaching style and I feel like I'm learning new enough things that it's more interesting and I'm a lot less tired of it now. While I'm not always super excited, I'm enjoying it a lot more and best of all I can really feel myself learning, which I'm grateful for. So, in summary, I'm thankful that I'm starting to understand Japanese, that I'm enjoying it more and really learning. Most of all though, I'm thankful that even for something as small and seemingly insignificant as studying Japanese, I was able to have a change of heart. And if I can change my attitude about that, than who knows what's next.

Oh, I couldn't think of anything to draw pictures of so maybe next time!  

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