I had an interesting experience at work last night. I waited on a table of 14 Japanese (business?) men. Most spoke hardly any English. It was quite an interesting experience trying to get a food order out of people who could not read the menu.
The host ordered everybody a Budweiser. When we put them on the table, everybody took their beer and poured it into their neighbor's glass. I guess I should have expected that.
One younger looking guy, who I would guess was about my age, told me that he spoke a little English and that he would like it if I would help him learn. I only had three other tables at the time, so I took about five minutes explaining the menu items in simple Enlish and charades. I think the only thing he understood was 'hot ironed seared'. I put my hand on the table and made a hissing sound. My total lack of Japanese language skills was painfully apparent. I tried using Japanese words if I knew them, but I'm sure he couldn't understand my accent anyways.
I also stumbled through a conversation about language with my new friend. He told me that Japanese was very easy to learn and that English was very difficult. I agreed with him somewhat, but told him that for Americans, learning kanji, hiragana, and katakana is very difficult. He said that it was difficult for the Japanese as well.
I tried telling him about the JET program. Instead of trying to explain that I was still applying and on April 4th I would find out if I got in, but that I would still have to wait a little longer for my placement, I just told him that I would be teaching English in Japan next year. It seemed a little easier since I'll never see this guy again (famous last words, right?).
Even though we had four or five little conversations, I would have liked to have talked to him a lot longer, but I was at work and I had a lot of other tables. I felt almost guilty each time I ended a conversation with him. He thanked me each time that we talked, which was very polite, and I got somebody another beer or cleared some plates.
So the first thing I do on April 4th if I get an email saying that I got in is go buy some language tapes.