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The Japanese Language Unknown to Even the Japanese


By Mel - Posted on 28 September 2010

A few weeks ago, Cerg and I happened to watch the initial episode of the TV comedy-drama series Nihonjin no shiranai nihongo, translated in English as "The Japanese Language Unknown to Even the Japanese".  Many foreigners living in Japan will surely be able to relate to this drama series.

The drama depicts the experience of Haruko, a former "charisma" shop assistant who is looking for a teaching position at a regular high school.  Haruko's former teacher who is temporarily admitted in a hospital promised to introduce Haruko such a position on the condition that Haruko would first handle a class for her for three months while she is still in the hospital.  Haruko accepted the deal not knowing that the class consisted of foreign students.

Haruko initially thought that teaching Japanese to foreigners is a piece of cake.  Unfortunately for Haruko, the foreigners in the class aren't the casual anime-loving fans who only know words and phrases from Pokemon or Naruto.  They are serious learners who have really maniac interest in the Japanese language and culture and they flood their teacher Haruko with the most outrageous questions.  For example, one student asked the name for the utensil used in filtering boiled noodles.  Another student, a Chinese national, asked why a certain kanji character is used as a symbol for tuna when in fact it is actually used for sturgeon in China.

Although Haruko at times get frustrated that she can't answer many questions regarding her native language, her strong personality and determination to become a high school teacher help her overcome the difficulties.  As she learns more of the personal lives of her students, she begins to realize the important role she plays in the lives of her students as they try to survive in Japan.

The best part about this program is that it is not just entertaining but also educational.  A TV program that tries to teach correct use of language to native speakers runs the risk of sounding too preachy.  However, the show, being a comic drama, is able to accomplish it in a non-preachy way.

For those who missed the initial episodes, you can watch them online through the links provided by our friends at Firipin.net.

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