Why American tourists expect Japanese to speak English without asking us if we speak English?

Discussion in 'Chit Chat & Miscellaneous' started by Momokan0415, Mar 31, 2018.

  1. Momokan0415

    Momokan0415 Kouhai

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    While I was taking subway the before yesterday, 3 American tourists asked me how to get to Asakusa without asking if I speak English.


    First of all, I ignored them as if I couldn’t speak English because I find them the native speakers of English judging from their pronunciation, but they reiterated “Excuse me” and asked me how to get to Asakusa slowly, so I was so irritated that I said “Why don’t you ask if I speak English before you ask me about your destination? English is NOT designated official spoken language in Japan. It’s faux pas that you ask questions without asking if I speak English first. Indeed, English is your mother tongue, but not my mother tongue. You should be courteous to non-native speakers. ”


    They got astounded and faced each other. Also, they were excusing why they didn’t ask saying that they could see a lot of signs written in English, but they had never offered apology for not asking if I speak English. They answered that they come from Illinois asked where they come from. Finally I was exasperated and said like that.


    “Learn [When in rome]. You look so arrogant. It is so arrogant attitude and not fair that you try to talk with non-native speakers in your mother tongue without asking if you can use your mother tongue ”


    Finally they only said “OK, we will ask others” and lost.


    Once I remember the time of studying abroad in USA in retrospect, Almost all Americans seemed to be lazy about learning foreign language because English is de facto lingua franca , As a result, they impose speaking English on anybody ,but ordinal human communication is not diplomacy. If it had been diplomacy like a bilateral conference, I should have answered in English or French in spite of Japan.


    By the way, in Japan, unlike me, almost all Japanese would be smiling and answering not objecting to the matter, so native speakers of English don’t realize necessary of Japanese language while traveling.


    I must be ignored I will ask something in Japanese language in USA on the other hand because Japanese is not officially spoken language in the US.


    What do you think?
     
  2. Lothor

    Lothor Sempai
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    I understand your annoyance but think you could have made your point more diplomatically.

    I would have given them the directions, smiled, asked where they were from, then at the end of the conversation pointed out that it's best to check whether a Japanese person speaks English first - many of them are not confident speakers. Then everyone would have been happy (hopefully!)
     
  3. Habaek

    Habaek 後輩

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    I live in a country with two official languages

    Both French and English.

    Deep down the French people knows that to speak English is in their best interests. Like a doctor telling what's good for their patients, however they still feel the need to express the importance of their language French. They would go to very extreme ways to express it at times.

    But to what end? absolutely no reason
     
  4. Mike Cash

    Mike Cash 骨も命も皆此の土地に埋めよう

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    I think you're an uptight *** who has some serious personality problems regarding language.

    Every other time you've participated here it was to tell us how wonderful you think your English is.

    You're mad they didn't ask you if you speak English before speaking English to you? For real? That's all it takes to piss you off?
     
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  5. Julie.chan

    Julie.chan Sempai

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    #5 Julie.chan, Mar 31, 2018
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2018
    It's a bit of a foreign concept (no pun intended). In the U.S., if someone were to try to speak to you in Spanish or what have you, chances are you would just say you don't understand that language. I'm sure if you had said 英語がわかりません (or anything in Japanese really) they would have gotten the point and apologized. Your reaction, as you describe it, must have looked needlessly hostile to them.

    Regarding what would happen if you tried to use Japanese in the U.S., I'm pretty sure it would just be "I'm sorry, I don't speak Chinese" (sic). Remember, if you don't understand Japanese, you're not going to know the difference between e.g. 「日本語がわかりますか。」 and 「マックドナルドはどこですか。」 So that's pretty much the attitude here. Besides, if you never try and just immediately resort to your broken English (like most people do), that can be quite frustrating too because then you're making it hard to tell if knowledge of a foreign language is of any use.
     
  6. Habaek

    Habaek 後輩

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    Dude take this guy to Nakamise-dori/Senso-ji treat him to some snacks. You both need a time off
     
  7. Alex Franke

    Alex Franke Over the river and through the woods

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    I think this is because a large portion of touristy countries (especially European countries) speak english to a decent degree, and we just assume that the majority of people can understand basic English. My impression anyway.

    No need to get so salty though
     
  8. lanthas

    lanthas  

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    This. For all you know, Japan was the first country these tourists visited where people could not readily give them directions in English - regardless of whether it's an official language there.
     
  9. WonkoTheSane

    WonkoTheSane 先輩

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    I don't think you would last a day living as a foreigner in any homogenous society in which you stand out purely by being foreign.

    Relax. Don't take the world personally, it doesn't care about you at all.
     
  10. OoTmaster

    OoTmaster 先輩

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    I think the assumption here in America is that the closer someone is to a big city likely the more English they speak. Also like you mentioned English is the de facto lingua franca, so making an assumption like that is usually a safe assumption. After all you do speak English. Maybe if you come across the situation again you can politely explain that not everyone in Japan speaks English even if they live in a big city. You could also perhaps use it as an opportunity to teach them a simple Japanese phrase to help them out next time. Like "英語が分かりますか。"
     
  11. Mike Cash

    Mike Cash 骨も命も皆此の土地に埋めよう

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    How about if somebody speaks to you in English you just reply to them in English without making a big deal out of it?

    How about if somebody speaks to you in Japanese you just reply to them in Japanese without making a big deal out of it?

    To borrow from American football.... when you get to the end zone, act like you've been there before.
     
  12. Mark of Zorro

    Mark of Zorro 先輩

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    Not a fan of my countrymen's attitudes in general, but, there is only one difference in asking "Do you speak English?" in English and asking "How can I get to X?" in English and that is that you are wasting time by asking two questions in English to find out if they speak English or not. Americans like to get to the point quickly and seamlessly. I like that about them. As soon as they ask you anything in English, like even "Are you a navel-gazing, self-righteous fool?" you can just say or gesture that you don't understand English. You can say it in Japanese or any language and they will get it right away that you don't....and everyone goes on their merry way.
     
  13. nedkelly

    nedkelly 後輩

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    I find these sort of exchanges amusing. I once said, ”ohaiyo gozaimasu” to some people in a Tokyo hotel, thinking they must be Japanese. They look offended and didn’t smile. Later I realised they were Chinese.

    Another time I chatted with an Israeli street vendor in Tokyo in Japanese. When she found that I came from an English speaking country, she demanded why I hadn’t addressed her English.

    People get sensitive about these language matters.
     
  14. goodheart

    goodheart Registered

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    If you don't speak English, how did you understand what was said to you?
    And you can't possibly blame them for making assumptions that you understand and speak English. They are Americans and they speak only English. You could have just tell them politely that you don't speak English in any way that you could.
    I'm a Nigerian but I stay in Ghana and almost every time, the local people assume that I speak Twi and they will just talk to me in Twi. Am I suppose to be fighting them all the time that they should have asked first if I speak Twi? How could they have known that? I always just tell them that I don't speak Twi in that local language that they understand. There are always some people that will even take it a little farther and ask me, how am I able to say that if I don't speak the Language? I have only mastered that phrase, "I don't speak Twi" in their local language.
     
  15. mdchachi

    mdchachi Moderator
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    I think they were newbies to Japan.
    I think they mistakenly thought that most people in a big city like Tokyo can speak English.
    I think they probably made that assumption because you can communicate in English in almost every other comparable big city in the world. And they probably had successful interactions with other people before they met you.
    I think they didn't owe you an apology.
    I think you were feeling bad that you couldn't properly respond in English after all the years of study and homestay you have had and projected your anger of yourself onto them.
     
  16. Lomaster

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    Just want to express my opinion, that in 21st century asking a person in a developed country if they speak English before speaking English is like asking a person in a developed country in 20th century if they've got a watch before asking time.

    Or better yet, asking a person if they can read before giving a business card. Soon enough it will sound just as rude to ask if a person can speak English, as it is to ask if they are literate.
     
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  17. JoshuaPort

    JoshuaPort Registered

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    Ya I think maybe English is too general and people expect everything to know English?
     
  18. tomoni

    tomoni 先輩

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    I was not planning to reply but this thread just keeps on working its way to the top…

    Firstly, since you asked:
    I think that you were very rude. If my children had behaved in such a rude way, I would reprimand them. People have come to Japan as visitors and you, by your own boasting, a person fluent in English, ignore them because they were impertinent enough to speak to you in English without first asking if you spoke English.

    So, rather than the courtesy of a response, in either English or Japanese, you ignored them. After which, you lectured them on bad manners.

    Excuse me is considered to be polite English, so perhaps the problem was not their bad manners but your irritation.


    So they were astounded by your rudeness and offered a reasonable explanation, which apparently did not meet your expectations.

    How wonderfully polite you are.

    Well, I think you were very rude.

    Furthermore, since you seem to place such a high value on courtesy, not including my post, #18, there are 17 posts on this thread, or 16 replies.

    Yet, you have not had the courtesy to reply to this thread nor to thank the people who took the time to answer your question.

    In closing, let me offer an alternative proverb:

    People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones
     
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  19. Momokan0415

    Momokan0415 Kouhai

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    well, I silently monitored what would happen in this thread.I thought it's time to open my mouse again,so I will reply in japanese on purpose. it's all up to you whether or not to skip.the reply below is comment to all.

    さて、今までのレスを見てきて思ったのは
    非英語圏の国籍の方が私に対して同情的なのに対して英語が母語の人たち、またはコモンウェルスの国の国籍の人が私に対してすごいバッシングをしていますね。

    いまは21世紀ですよ?もう帝国主義の時代は終わりました。西欧や北米の人たちが、有色人種に対して傲慢に自分たちの言語を話すことを他人に 強制してふんぞり返る時代ではありません。まして、アジアでは数少ない西欧の植民地にならなかった日本でこのようなことがまかり通るのは日本人が普段から舐められている証拠ですね。


    とはいえ、日本人にも一部原因がありますね。なぜかといえばWW2でアメリカに負けてアメリカという国、アメリカ人、そして英語に劣等感をほとんどの日本人が持つようになりました。

    その結果、非英語圏である日本で、謙虚に「すみません、日本語が話せないので英語話せませんか?」と外国人に言われることもなく、ほとんどの日本人は外国人にいきなり早口で英語で質問されたり話を振られても抗議することなく、ただ苦笑いをするか怯えてたどたどしく小声で萎縮した感じで単語だけで答えるのがほとんどですね。通じなければ「自分の英語がいけないんだ」と自虐までします。まるで、植民地の原住民が宗主国の役人の気分を害さないように媚びへつらうようにするわけです。今は21世紀なのに。世界中の全ての言語は平等でしょう?

    今回、このスレッドに参加しているたくさんの人が私を無礼だと言いますが、たくさんの日本人が英語の母語話者に対して憤りを感じていますよ。その憤りをたくさんの日本人に代わって私が代弁しただけです。「日本人は英語の母語話者様に対しては日本語など使わず世界共通語の英語を話せ、日本語など話す価値はない」と思われるのは心外です。

    しかも、英語が母語の人たちは穏やかでなにも言わないほとんどの日本人を馬鹿にしているのか、必死に英語でコミュニケーションを自分の国なのにも関わらず、とろうとしてるのに威圧的に振る舞います。



    事実、先日も東京都内のKFCで、英語がほとんどわからない店員(高校生くらいの女の子)が英語の母語話者の客に早口の英語で注文されて気後れして、混乱させられていました。客は英語が通じないと見るや彼女に対して舌打ちまでしていました。かわいそうに。英語が母語ならもう少し彼女のわかるスピードで話をしてあげればいいのに。彼らはコミュニケーションをとりたいのではなく、英語が話せない人間を馬鹿にしたいだけに見えました。今回、私が話をした観光客もこういう傲慢な人間です。傲慢な人間に無礼をわからせるには私がやった方法しかありません。

    もし、今回の場合において、私がホテルの従業員で彼らが客だったら、私はどんなときでも英語を話さなければいけないというのは明白だったでしょう。なぜならば、客に対して便宜を図るのがホテルの従業員ですから。お金を貰う以上は客に対して自分ができる最善を尽くすことが義務ですからね。

    なおかつ、この会話の場面が国家間の外交協議や商談ならばより私は英語を使わなければいけなかったでしょう。英語は商業言語として確立し、なおかつ外交における共通語です。私も外交やビジネスにおける英語の優位性はもちろん理解しています。その点はなにも異議を挟むつもりはありません。

    問題は、今回の単なる全く知らない会ったこともない他人同士の雑談でこのようなことが起こったということです。雑談ではどんな言語を使うかは明文化はされていません。それなのに、外交やビジネスで英語がまず使われているからという理由だけで一般的な会話でさえ、しかも店員ではない一般市民に対し我が物顔で英語が話せるかも確かめず英語を強制するのはいかがなものでしょうか。

    英語が母語の人たちは「人間は英語を話して当たり前、英語を話さないのは人間ではない」と思っているのか、誰構わず英語で早口で話しかけます。非英語圏だとわかっていながら、誰にでも英語で話しかけます。まるで、世界には英語しか存在しないかのようにです。彼らの頭の中に「English Imperialism」という言葉は存在しません。英語が世界中で話されているから自分たちは特権階級にいる人間と勘違いしています。

    英語が母語の方に聞きたいのですが、日本にいても英語を話せ、と強制するのはどんな根拠で言っているのでしょうか。私は日本語を母語とする日本に住む日本人です。私がどんな言語を私の国で話そうと私の自由です。

    >tomoniさん

    返信しろと騒ぎ立てるので特別にあなた向けの返信を上記に加えて差し上げます。

    私があなたの子供なら叱りつけるなどと仰っていますがあなたはそれなら自分の子供に「非英語圏だろうが英語がわからない人なんだろうが英語を話し続けろ、英語は世界共通語なんだから、奴らがどんな反応を示そうが関係ない、自分たちは特別なんだ」って教育してるんですか?怖いですね。

    あ、それと、「ガラスの家に住む者に石を投げるな」とありますが、あなたは英語の話すことができない普通の日本人、つまり「ガラスの家に住む人」に対しては石を投げたことが今まで一回もないと本当に言えますか?

    そんなあなたには日本の素晴らしい格言をお教えしましょう。
    「実るほど頭を垂れる稲穂かな」

    PS:一部の方が私は自分の英語力を自慢していると仰っていますが全くの誤認です。私は「英語が苦手でなにを考えているのかわからない」と英語を母語とする人たちから偏見を持たれがちな日本人のイメージを変えようと努力をしているだけです。そのために私は学術的なことを30代の大人らしく英語で語れるようにしているだけです。そしてその偏見を止めてもらいたいと主張しているだけです。

    事実、私は日本人というだけで話を聞いてもらえなかったことが多かったのです。しかし、英語で大英帝国史を話したりコウモリの生態について話したり、微分法の話をしたりすると英語の母語話者は自分たちの傲慢さに気づいたかまたは自分の無知を知ったのか驚き慄き私に対する態度をすぐに改めます。

    でも皆言うことは一緒なんですよね。
    「君は英語が非母語なのに、そんなことまで語れるのか、驚いた」
     
  20. Majestic

    Majestic 先輩

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    オモロ。
    英語で喧嘩売りに来て、日本語で逃げようとする。

    @Momokan0415 , if you think you were the victim of すごいバッシング, you need to read the responses again.

    You asked, "What do you think?", so you can hardly complain when people do you the favor of responding.

    The rest of your arguments are too silly to discuss. Imagine, in the 21st century, someone believes that approaching people on a train and speaking English to them is a form of extreme arrogance.

    Good luck with your Olympics, Tokyo.
     
  21. tomoni

    tomoni 先輩

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    Well thank you for your special reply.
    No-one is here to persecute you, so there is no need for silent monitoring. All of the replies here have directly answered your question.


    • My answer is not related to culture imperialism or special status to anyone, just a simple matter of courtesy.

    • Actually, I am not throwing stones at you. You suggest "when in Rome, do as the romans do" and so you were upset that foreign visitors did not ask if you spoke English first, which you said said was rude. You could have easily shaken your head and said, "分かりません" or something similar and they would have left you alone. But instead you choose to lecture them on their manners which is in fact bad manners.

    In every culture that I am aware of, lecturing a stranger on bad manners, is bad manners, so glass houses…


    BUT I think the most important point is that you asked people for their opinion and since they did not validate your opinion or actions, you are upset.

    This is a friendly forum with people genuinely trying to be helpful and to date, your big contributions have been, something about people dissing you and this thread.

    So, it is up to you whether you want to be part of his community or an internet troll. I hope you choose that later.

    Cheers
     
  22. Toritoribe

    Toritoribe 禁漁期
    Staff Member Moderator

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    @ The OP, your post is against our forum rules.

    GENERAL POSTING RULES

    III. Language

    General discussions and questions should be in English. Questions about Japanese language as well as Japanese discussions should be posted to our Japanese fora in either Japanese or English. Threads in other languages can be posted to a dedicated subforum.

    Forum Rules | Japan Forum

    まあ私も似たような投稿したこともありますので、あまり人のことを言えた義理ではありませんが。

    根拠をお示しいただけませんか?身の回りで見聞した個人的な経験のみによるものではなく、客観的に「たくさん」が間違いではないと言い切れるような具体的な調査結果等をお持ちであるならば、ぜひご提示ください。
     

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