Saturday, September 12, 2009

Understanding Sensei Yaguchi

Interestingly, I'm one of the best translators of Sensei Yaguchi's English I know. Cathy Cline is the only person I know personally who can understand him better. I do know that he's never really gotten the hang of English. What he speaks is Japanese, but using English words with Japanese "glue" words. The sentence structure is pure Japanese, which happens to be the reverse of English sentence structure. For example, the literal translation of "Where is the train?" would be, "Train, where is it?" So Japanese sentences often begin with the subject noun. He will use English for the nouns and verbs, and Japanese for "the," "of," "and," and other glue words.

I used to understand about 60 % of what he said and couldn't get beyond that. Then I took a job where I had to commute from Denver to Boulder every day, about 44 miles each way. I did everything I could to ease the boredom, including listening to books on tape. I bought a tape set called "Learn Japanese in Your Car," and played that for probably 2 or 3 months. I can't say I learned a ton of Japanese, but I did get much better at understanding Sensei Yaguchi's "English." Now I'm probably up to 85-90% understanding. And this is after over 20 years of training with him.

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