It is often said that a good way to learn a foreign language is to date somebody who speaks that language. I suspect there is truth in this. My wife now speaks English with more than a touch of my accent, and I have picked up a great deal of Japanese from my wife. This would be great if there wasn’t a marked distinction between what is regarded as feminine speech and masculine speech in Japanese.
Over the years, I seem to have picked up rather too much ‘feminine speech’ and whilst my Japanese has improved to a level where I can function comfortably, I do so in the manner of a flamboyant homosexual. I speak Japanese like a Japanese chap might speak English had he learned it entirely from Graham Norton and Duncan Norvelle.
I wish I could change this but it is ever so hard. Firstly, I don’t really have many male Japanese friends with whom to talk butch, and secondly I always feel such a tit when I try. Accustomed as I am to a feminine lilt, whenever I hear someone speaking particularly masculine Japanese, it just sounds like they’re really trying to sound hard. When I try and use masculine Japanese I feel as I imagine I would were I Stephen Fry trying to talk with a bunch of Glaswegian drunks in their own patois. More than just a phoney; a complete nob.
I thought maybe I could pick up some tips in manliness from conversing with my father-in-law. He’s a retired construction worker. Better yet, he speaks no English so we have to communicate in his language. Unfortunately, even now, I have very little idea of what he is saying most of the time. Mostly, it would appear he just growls. He does so with a smile and I think he likes me – even though he must think his daughter has married a huge pansy of man – but the things that come out of his mouth never really sound much like words. It doesn’t stop him trying, though. He growls away in a rapid-fire succession of grunts and gutturals and I try and show understanding and enthusiasm for his story. I do so, though, by laughing along and blurting out something like, ‘Oh, but father, how wonderful! That does sound so absolutely divine!’