132 - Talking to Japanese People Visiting Your Home Country

We all have different motivations for learning Japanese. Some of us might be drawn to this language by a certain fascination--maybe a fascination with pop culture (e.g. anime), traditional culture, martial arts, etc.

But for others, the main drive is not fascination. Rather, their "motivation" is anobligation to study Japanese. I've met some people that are pretty good at Japanese... but they only studied it so that they could finally communicate with some of their coworkers here in Tokyo.

The obligation I hear about the most, however, is family.

A lot of us have Japanese spouses, grandparents, cousins, etc.

And we want to talk to them!

A few days ago, I got an email from a fellow student saying that several of his young Japanese cousins will be visiting him in the U.S. And none of them speak English.

So, without further ado...

Useful Phrases for Hosting Japanese Guests in Your Home Country... Especially Kids & Teenagers

Since the request I got was for Japanese family members visiting the U.S., most of the examples will be for アメリカ.

😲 😲 Sudden Tangent 😲 😲

Looking in a travel book, you hear a lot about being "culturally sensitive." Usually this is referring to respecting differences in other cultures.

But I've found that there is yet another version of cultural sensitivity: Learning that your language is, for lack of a perfect word, rude.

Once, I was speaking to a Canadian, and I was shocked to learn that she found it offensive to hear people refer to the United States as "America." Every country in North and South America are in "America," she told me.

On the one hand, I thought, You're totally right. But I was also thinking, Well then how in the world am I supposed to say "I'm American?" Saying "I'm from the United States" is such a hassle!

Sadly for her, everyone in Japan will refer to "citizens of the United States" as アメリカ人(アメリカじん // "American person[s]"). Sometimes in writing, you'll see the U.S. referred to as アメリカ合衆国(アメリカ がっしゅうこく // "The United States of America"), but I've never heard a person say it in a casual conversation.

To avoid this tricky issue, usually when people ask me where I'm from, I'll just say California. Half of all Japanese people will respond to that by saying, "Ah, so you're American" or "So you're from America," though. I can then pretend to be cool by saying, "Actually, I'm a dual citizen of the United States and New Zealand." Dual citizenship, by the way, is called 二重国籍(にじゅうこくせき), literally "two-layer nationality."

I've also met a good deal of people from various countries that find it offensive when Japanese people refer to them as 外人(がいじん // foreigner) or 外国人(がいこくじん // foreigner), including when they use the English word "foreigner."

Speaking of which, I've had tons of Japanese students that used the awkward sounding English phrase "foreign country person," presumably because they wanted to say 外国人, literally "outside"(外) + "country"(国) + "person"(人).

Japanese students' response to these sensitive "people from countries other than Japan:" What am I supposed to say, then?!

I don't know, man. Not a clue.

Feel free to call me whatever you want, though. I won't get offended.

Annnnnnnd, that has almost nothing to do with today's lesson.

(Note: For ease of translation, I'm just putting "America" for アメリカ. Please don't hate me.)

Here are our example sentences:

How's America? // How are you liking America?
Literally: "America + は + how?"

It's fun!
Literally: "fun!"

いま の ところ アメリカ の なに が すき?
What do you like about America so far?
Literally: "as of now / at present (= now + の + place) + America + の + what + が + liking?"

ひろい ところ と おかし の しゅるい が いっぱい ある ところ。
It's big, and there are all kinds of snacks [candies].
Literally: "wide / spacious + ところ + and + snacks / sweets + の + types + が + a lot of + there are + ところ."
Note: Here, the word ところ, which usually means "place," is being used to mean something like "aspect." If we had translated this sentence as, "That it's big and that there are all kinds of snacks," then ところ would be close in meaning to the word "that." The speaker is talking about the figurative "places" (i.e. "aspects") that he/she likes.

なにか やりたい こと ある?
Is there anything in particular you want to do?
Literally: "something + want to do + thing + there is?"

ピストル うって みたい!
I want to shoot a gun!
Literally: "pistol + want to try shooting!"
Note: For more on "te-form + みたい," please refer back to Lesson #53.

いって みたい ところ ある?
Is there anywhere you want to visit?
Literally: "want to try to go + place + there is?"

アメリカ の ディズニーランド いきたい な。
I wanna visit American Disneyland.
Literally: "America + の + Disneyland + want to go + な."
Note: This な, as I've mentioned elsewhere, is kind of like "Inward ね." There is a slight nuance that the speaker is talking to himself/herself (though that's obviously not the case).

がっこう たのしい?
Is school fun?
Literally: "school + fun?"

べんきょう は つまんない けど やすみ じかん は たのしい。
Class is boring, but break-times are fun.
Literally: "studies + は + boring + but + rest + time + は + fun."

にほん って どんな ところ?
What's Japan like?
Literally: "Japan + って + what kind of + place?"

ひと が いっぱい いて いつも こんでる。
There are a lot of people, and it's always crowded.
Literally: "person + が + full of / a lot of + there are (and) + always + is crowded."

アメリカ で なに が いちばん おいしかった?
What's the best thing you've eaten in America?
Literally: "America + で + what + が + number-one + was delicious?"

ステーキ と メキシコ りょうり が おいしかった。
Steak and Mexican food (were delicious).
Literally: "steak + and + Mexico + cooking + が + was delicious."

アメリカ と にほん って どう ちがう?
How is America different from Japan?
Literally: "America + and + Japan + って + how + differ?"

アメリカ は いろんな じんしゅ の ひと が いる けど にほん は ほとんど アジアじん。
There are all kinds of people in America, but in Japan there are mostly just Asians.
Literally: "America + は + various + races + の + person + が + there are + but + Japan + は + mostly + Asia people."

Sorry I skimped a bit on the notes. For this lesson I thought lots of sentences with minimal notes would be better than only a handful of sentences with tons of notes. ^_^

Complete and Continue