My class and I were out for an afternoon walk in the park in my home town, Hagi, when we saw the bearded stranger. Some of the girls waved, giggled and said ‘hallo’! He stopped and waved back, so I bobbed my head, said ‘excuse me’ and asked for a photograph of him, me and my 20 pupils.
He congratulated me on the girls’ pronunciation (he said most children waved, giggled and said ‘harro’ to him). He asked me about other English words he had heard being used. He had heard someone tell a car driver he was correctly parked by using ‘awridee’ (alrighty); he had heard ‘jusu’ (juice) and ‘raisu’ (rice). Its true. Older Japanese fear the dilution of the language but young professionals like me recognise the need to learn English, and therefore use it. Then Koichi came up to me and I introduced him as the primary school’s kendo champion. I then used my English to introduce the whizkid at Go, the one who liked running, the maths swot, the postcard collector, and a few others.
We talked a bit about Hagi’s main industries (squid and pots) and I recommended some of the best samurai houses to visit. Then I had to take the kids back to school but I was pleased with the conversation. I had graduated in English and now taught the language at the local school. But the bearded stranger was the first native speaker I had ever spoken to outside university.