Saturday, November 25, 2006

Filling in the blanks

It’s funny how when you only know some of a language, your mind will work hard to fill in the blanks. I sometimes find myself watching TV over here and trying to work out what is going on and coming with a scenario in my head.

I used to play a game when watching TV of “Guess what this commercial is for”, some were easy, others, I never figured out. I remember way back watching a drama on the fateful September 11. The show abruptly ended and a scene of New York with a tower on fire was broadcast. I sat for a number of minutes trying to figure out what the commercial was advertising and musing to myself that it was going for an awfully long time.

Every morning at school, the day begins with a staff meeting. I usually stand up, say my “Ohaiyo Gozaimasu” with a brief nod of the head and then sit down and ignore the rest of the proceedings, as I have no idea of what they are all talking about. Recently, I heard something about a female, a measurement in centimeters and a hospital. I assumed that someone had had a baby. How wrong I was! It was in fact about an elderly woman who had left a local hospital and was now lost. Everyone was being asked to keep an eye out for her.

I am lucky that I work with three other native English speakers. It somehow takes the edge off the isolation that can sometimes be felt over here. Jason, who sits next to me, has the highest level of Japanese out all of us. We sometimes rely on him for translations. After the morning meeting on Friday, he turned to me and told me
“There’s a ghost in the school”.

Jason loves a joke, so I simply turned to him and asked “What are you talking about now?”

“No, seriously! They were talking about it in the morning meeting! They were very concerned and said that something had to be done about it. They were talking about an obake. Obake means ghost!” he told me all excited.

Japan takes its ghosts a little more seriously than we do back home, so it didn’t sound that unbelievable. Where was the ghost? What are they going to do about it? I wanted to know.

It was a couple of hours before we had that one cleared up. The teachers had indeed been talking about an Obake but it had a different meaning. They were using to term to refer to a person that reserves a room and then doesn’t turn up to use it.

I can tell you, I’m never going to forget the word for ghost now.

1 comment:

michelle said...

I didn't know the other meaning of obake either. How confusing! Just when you think your Japanese is alright, you get tricked! How fun it would have been though to look for a monster in your school!