For the first half of this semester, I had been having difficulty finding an appropriate CIP to participate in. However, as described in my last blog, I have for the past month been attending a conversation circle called KURESON. Since joining, I have been to three or four of the regular meetings, as well as just recently a sakura viewing party and BBQ. From here I will be continuing to attend the regular meetings as well as hoping to participate in a strawberry picking outing that should happen sometime in the second half of April.
I have met lots of very nice people there, and since at the meetings the conversation is primarily in English, it gives a very different perspective on the Japanese manner of communicating. Particularly, it is a strong reversal of what is the normal social interaction between foreigners and Japanese in Japan, where the Japanese can speak fluent Japanese but the foreigner, if not fully fluent, is left a little uncomfortable and maybe left out.
Speaking in English with them puts everyone on different footing, where, since they are not fluent, are forced to be more blunt and clear with explanations and answers because they don’t know more subtle or nuanced ways of explaining things. This immediately changes the relationship between the two conversers, as I feel that the Japanese members are forced to open up a little more than they maybe would previously.
However, this then carries over later, when, for example, at the hanami party, when everyone spoke primarily in Japanese, since the ice had already been broken everyone got along very well and chatted with everyone else. To me, it felt like everyone was on more settled ground and were able to mix better, and everyone ended up having a great time.
This idea of hesitance was very present in our conversations in English however, which led to some interesting realizations about the way Japanese people speak about themselves in relation to Americans. For example, whenever they were asked what they do, the usual response is just “I work at a company” or “I’m a student.” In English these are such vague remarks that one almost feels uncomfortable continuing the questioning, but in Japanese is just a form of modesty that is then usually followed by “ah, what company?” or “what college?”
I’m excited to continue KURESON for the next month and continue to participate and meet up with members. It’s been a great experience!