Communication is a tricky thing. The other day at work, I had a series of meetings. All went well—we got through all of the material and everyone had a few laughs. Then the final person of the day plunked herself, her computer and a pile of papers in front of me and said, “You already checked this, so Wheaties and a Fig Newton.”
“Rumpelstiltskin captured an albatross.”
“Bogartinsky fleebarty floop.”
OK, that’s not exactly what she said, but what she did say made about that much sense. So I touched her arm gently and said, “I’m sorry. I don’t understand. Don’t panic. It doesn’t mean you’re stupid. It means I’m stupid. But if you want me to understand, you’re going to have to try again.”
After a bit more struggling, I discovered that she wanted me to come back on Monday.
One of the problems for the feeble-minded foreigner struggling with Japanese is that there are multiple layers of politeness along with a corporate culture of using as many words as possible to say the simplest thing. Now that I’m older than almost everyone else, as well as a Sensei in these situations, they use extra polite language out of respect for me.
And I appreciate that…but mostly I don’t understand it.
So please, people, keep it simple. I would be ever-so-grateful. In the interest of getting the job done, I don’t mind looking a bit dense. And I promise I won’t plan my sourness or laugh at your frank frutes.