10 March 2009

Tarzan-ben Japanese

Or, "Condescension: how pidgin languages are born"

Some people here seem to immediately assume Westerners can't speak a word of Japanese and will use oversimplified Tarzan-like Japanese (ie. me... *points to chest* frrriend!), lacking grammar or appropriate politeness levels and reinforced with inane grunts, redundant hand gestures and with whatever bits and pieces of English vocabulary they remember from high school in order to try to accommodate the hapless manchild foreigners. For example, as I was writing this, a member of the main office staff at Ichikoko came in an had an Tarzan-ben conversation with me.

Free you say?

And of course, the badly pronounced basic English vocabulary just happens to correspond to the simple Japanese vocabulary that all the foreigners in this country know already, and it ruins the rhythm of the conversation making it a lot harder to understand than if they just used one language or the other in the first place, and makes whoever it is trying to talk to you sound condescending as hell.

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