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Excuse me?

I was in a local coffee shop when having breakfast when I heard something that always gets my attention.

“わたしは。。。um… 日本。。。すみます。”

This broken conversation was coming from the table next to me, and another table beyond that. I had of course noticed some 日本語 being spoken earlier, but had gone back to reading my newspaper. I couldn’t think of any excuse to introduce myself and do some 話し練習1, but still was listening in. Someone had heard someone else at the table next to them speaking Japanese, and had introduced themselves. One group of four was visiting 上海, the other table of two lived here, and were imparting their knowledge.

Here was the problem. Maybe some other jPod listeners can relate. I felt like jumping in and introducing myself and, but thought it was a little rude. After all, what could I say? “Look mate, you’re obviously learning Japanese, so I thought I’d saunter over and have a chat. Suffice it to say, you need to visit” I’m usually shameless in approaching 日本人 and just striking up a conversation (after all, how else can you learn a language?) but coming up to someone on the pretence that their Japanese needs improving made me feel a little 緊張2.

Anyway, I just bit the bullet, said a loud 「えと、すみません」 and went on my sales pitch. Everyone said how 上手3 I sounded, to which I gave the standard response 「いやいやいやいやいやいや」4

The 外国人 turned out to be オーストラリア人, which was a nice coincidence. He asked what I did at jPod, and I had to explain that I just wrote a little bit about it every now and then. He asked if I had a card, I didn’t. I’m not really an employee, but still, it would have been nice to give him something.

How would you have handled the situation? It might be a little rude to approach someone and say how you noticed them struggling with their Japanese, and that you have a great site to recommend to them. Some people might feel that their language skills are better than they are, and might feel that they don’t need any improving.

Maybe we need a little card/flyer to hand out to people… “If you’re interested in 日本語…”

4Confused? Listen to 幸子先生 at My Tokyo Travelblogue – Day 7 at 16:57 when 夏子先生 remarks on how familiar she is with matchmaking parties. Her reaction is a great example of an 「いやいやいやいや」