For my CIP, I joined various Ultimate Frisbee teams around Kyoto. Since I have been playing Ultimate for years already, this seemed like a good choice for me. I thought it would be much easier to communicate since I already knew plenty of things about the sport. I could not have been more wrong. While it definitely helped that I already knew the jist of what was going on, I sometimes had a tough time understanding what was going on.
Fortunately, everyone was very accommodating. When I couldn’t understand some of what was going on, someone would sit with me and draw the situation out, explaining the necessary vocabulary as we went. In addition, there were a few people who spoke English, who occasionally helped me out when I was struggling really badly.
At first, when I found out there were several people who could speak English, I was nervous that I would become reliant on them: it would be far easier to speak with them in English, and then have them help translate into Japanese, than it would be for me to learn the myriad of vocabulary that would be necessary to explain myself. If this had happened, I don’t think I would have gotten much out of this experience. But it didn’t. Instead, I forced myself to speak Japanese, even when I was talking with the people who could speak English. At first, it was very difficult, but I slowly acclimated. Since I sometimes had practice on both Saturdays and Sundays, it got to a point where I would go whole weekends without speaking English. Thanks to this, I got lots of speaking practice, while having fun at the same time.