Guess what I spied in the ice cream bin at 7-11???!!!!!???? Black Thunder Ice Cream Bar! It’s the brown package, top right. Nooooo, don’t look at the Chocopie. We are not doing Chocopie today. Although it looks yummy, doesn’t it.
Well. The Black Thunder Ice Cream Bar was (of course) delectable…….However, not quite as delectable as the regular Black Thunder candy bar. Not worth flying all the way to Japan for. (Unless you are Bill Gates and have nothing better to do.)
I finished “The Fall of Language in the Age of English“. I have quite a lot of thoughts about it. I think the translation of the original Japanese book would be more like “The Loss of Japanese/In the Middle of the World of English.”
Here is an interview with the author, Minae Mizumura: http://www.nippon.com/en/people/e00003/
I bought the book and read it due to a gut feeling that I have had that corresponds to the theme of this book. Basically, English is taking over the world. If English is your native language, you have “English Privilege.” I wanted to get a Japanese point of view on the matter.
So here are some of my thoughts:
- Mizumura’s family moved to America when she was a young teen, and she hated America and she hated English. So, even though she knows English well, she is definitely not an English lover. (She is actually more of a French lover–she studied that in college and it is pretty obvious she admires French and France.) The fact is she FRIGGIN’ HATES ENGLISH. I wonder how much that colors her viewpoint.
- Even though it bothers me that from the outset she has made up her mind that English is the enemy, I agree with the gist of the book. Basically, English is the language nowadays that people have to learn if they want to get along in the international community.
- I notice this on Facebook. On my group “Mottainai Japan” we all speak in English, even though probably most of the posters are not native English speakers. I am sure the reason has very much to do with the fact that Japanese is really difficult to read and write. If you put us foreigners all in a room together, we might speak Japanese (or English.) But reading and writing? English only, please, for a lot of us foreigners.
- I have long felt that there is “English privilege.” It is quite easy for me to get English materials and English is a valued language. I benefit from it.
- Many native English speakers are so incredibly unaware of their English privilege. I am not going to go into examples….I think all of us who live in Japan know what I am talking about!
- Mizumura seems to think that we are setting the goals too high for English learning in Japan. I disagree. In my son’s elementary school, more often than not, he comes home and tells me, “English was cancelled today.” It’s not a high priority for the public school system.
- Mizumura believes something I have long suspected. It is SO MUCH HARDER TO BE BILINGUAL in Japanese/English than French/English, or Spanish/English or Dutch/English. (Two disparate languages are far harder than a combination of two European languages–with a few exceptions, like Hungarian and Finnish.) So yeah, it is so much harder for a Japanese businessman than a Dutch businessman or a Spanish businessman. Or a Japanese kid at school learning English.
So those are my thoughts. Mizumura’s book was a bestseller in Japan, but I don’t think people are following her advice and keeping their kids from learning English. Just the opposite. Japanese people recognize the value of learning English and want to give their kids every possible opportunity to get a good job.