Learning a new language means mistakes. Here’s one of mine
I didn’t speak much Japanese when I came to Japan. I knew how to say hello. How to say please, and strangely, how to say heavy rain, 土砂降り.
This means when I first came to Japan, getting around was quite difficult. But lucky for me I made a Japanese friend in University.
Her name was Riho and she lives in Hawaii. However, her family live in Fukuoka and she grew up here.
I say lucky because when I first came to Japan I lived in Kitakyushu. It was quite easy for me to meet them at that time. Just an hour long train ride. So I decided to do that one weekend.
I contacted Riho’s little brother who speaks English quite well. He lived in Australia for a year. We made a plan to meet. So before meeting them I thought I would make an effort to speak some Japanese.
Now, I had not seen Riho’s family in five years. The last time I saw them, I was a 21-year-old university student. I drove them around Los Angeles and Riho translated between us so that we could understand each other.
I wanted to express that it had been a long time but it was nice to see them. So I learned the Japanese to say this, ”お久しぶり”.
The day came to see them. I met Riho’s mother at the station and said hello and used the word I practiced, or at least I thought I did. We talked a little on the ride back to their house in English. She asked me simple questions about Japan and I answered in simple English. Then we arrived at their home.
When we got inside. Riho’s brother was waiting.
He and his mom talked and he had this confused look on his face.
“Shane, it’s sunny today. Why did you tell my mom 土砂降り?!”
My face turned bright red. Without realising it I had mixed up お久しぶり and 土砂降り.
They thought it was really funny. Later, Riho told me that her and her family now use 土砂降り when they greet each other after a long time.