Skilled Laborer: Part 2

“Who dares, wins” is an incomplete quote. It should probably end with “as long as you’ve thought about the dare for at least a couple minutes.” Young adult Kevin could have benefited a lot from the clarification.

My general impression in the early days of my adulthood was that you should just pick a thing and then jump headlong into that thing. So after I had my skills revelation–that I had picked all the wrong skills and that I needed some new skills in order to make myself marketable on the romancin’ front–I proceeded to pick a new skill with as little forethought as possible. So I learned Japanese.

Hoisted by my own petard, I later discovered that Japanese is not renowned for its ability to get pretty ladies hot and swoony. I’m sorry, the answer we were looking for was French, with partial credit for Italian. It turns out that “je t’aime” sounds and looks much more romantic to the Western lady than あなたを愛してる [anata wo aishiteru]. Way to not make it to Japan, Roman Empire. You got to Armenia and thought, “we’ve got basically all of Asia; we’re good here”?! It’s called Asia Minor for a reason! And by the time America got there, it was too late. Because all that did was bring in a bunch of gross-sounding cognates so that you had to describe a girl with blonde hair as a BURONDO no onna no hito [ブロンドの女の人]. It also didn’t help that the girls I was hoping to impress with this skill had grandfathers who still weren’t sold on the idea that Japanese people should be allowed to play baseball (it was the Midwest after all).

[If I could put in a quick plug for Japanese, I would say that if you put away Western language predispositions, you’ll find that Japanese is a tremendously beautiful language. It’s very vowely; every word ends either in a vowel or “n,” which makes for very soft-sounding sentences.]

In the absence of ladies (a perennial theme in my young adulthood), I figured I could still salvage the Japanese learning by finding another use for it. So I decided that I would use my Japanese to be able to watch anime without subtitles. (It’s hard to suss out whether my interest in anime was the cause of or effect of the no ladies.) I was already an avid fan of anime, so this was a natural move for me.  Yet again, though–foiled. Because what I hadn’t counted on was that people talk in their native language very, very quickly. It works really well for people who are both fluent in a language to speak that language quickly; it saves time and you can pack a lot more words in so you can really get to the bottom of that gossip about the old guy down the block who’s compulsively varnishing things.

The speed at which I could comprehend, however, was the speed at which you talk to a child who just got a concussion. So really all I got out of a half-hour anime episode was, “there’s a guy, and he’s mad and somebody else is about to eat lunch.”

So, if you need to know–very slowly!–whether someone isn’t happy or whether they plan to eat a meal soon, I have a very particular set of skills.



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