We are visiting family who live in Aizuwakamatsu, Japan. It is a ‘small’ town in the Fukushima prefecture North of Tokyo. As we were traveling people would ask us where we were going in Japan and when we said Aizuwakamatsu their comment was always, “No English” there! We always get a kick out of their faces and comments and then continue moving North. EVERY person we encountered commented about “No English”…which was a big hint.
We have been taking taxis back and forth from our hotel and one very clever driver had a handheld translation tool that worked amazingly. He spoke into it and the tool then spoke the English translation for us to understand. Once we arrived at our destination my husband expressed our thanks in Japanese, and the driver did not understand his American accent, so he held up the translation tool and my husband said thank you in English. The tool then spoke the Japanese translation and the driver understood. We all laughed, shook hands, and went our separate ways VERY pleased with ourselves.
Another driver had no tool or ability to understand us, nor could we understand him. We were going to the train station so my husband said, “Choo-Choo, chugga, chugga” and the driver understood completely. My hubby even did hand motions to get his point across. We all laughed and then proceeded to the station. More than once we have used sounds and motions to express our needs.
There is something universal in not being understood. It can be a great cause for fear and anxiety in our relationships, even within our own families. Being without English for a week has made me appreciate how simple and clear communication can be if you are willing to let go of your own hang ups and simply do anything it takes to get your message across. We can overcomplicate things by trying to be verbose, or impressive or even so we seem intelligent, when in reality a simple message would suffice. You can survive without English if you are willing to go back to the basics to get your message delivered.