narrow street

“English?”

I was walking down a narrow street of small shops in an upbeat mood. Rain was just starting to fall, and I noticed a three year old boy with his palms outstretched and younger sister barely standing next to him. “It’s raining, no?” I asked him in Japanese. Excited and wide-eyed, he blurted out to his shop-keeper father, “English?” His father seemed as amused as me by the young boy’s false sense of language comprehension.

An attractive architect, who went to school and worked in the US,  recently told me that his wife, after a few drinks, thinks that she understands dinner conversation English, when in reality she is listening to his simultaneous translation.

I see this earnest delusion in my own efforts to understand spoken Japanese. Maybe language learning starts with the will to understand. Even though full comprehension takes much longer.