Language log 2013 01 14: Locked out from the primary language

One of the things that bugged me when I started working here was when the other members of my team talked in Japanese during meetings, even though they’re all fluent in English and know that I can’t understand what they’re saying.

After some griping, I actually managed to get them to change and switch to English. But, in recent weeks, they’ve slipped back into Japanese. Every now and then, someone will pipe up and translate a morsel here and there for me, but mostly it’s a Japanese-only zone.

That makes me feel … conflicted. On the one hand, I feel it’s rude to me.

But then again, I live in Tokyo. My co-workers are all Japanese. Dammit, I should speak Japanese, shouldn’t I? How is it that I’ve been living here for almost six years in total — almost three years this time, and still not managed to get a good grasp of the language? How can I be this dumb?

And that’s the nub of it. My feelings of anger are really feelings of inferiority. I feel angry and stymied because I feel stupid. And I feel stupid because, deep down, I suspect I really am stupid.


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