Speaking Japanese?…hmm, I think so

by jexmas on March 18, 2012

I am on the bus, traveling around town from one meeting to the next. This bus is crowded and I am standing in the aisle, holding onto one of the overhead straps, looking around idly at the passengers. It is a random mixture of people, although heavy on the student side since it is the middle of the afternoon and the time most schools are done for the day.

I look down at a young woman sitting in front of me and notice she is holding a book on her knee. Its title is “Japanese for Busy People.” I do not really think about it too much because the title tells me she is a student and is learning Japanese and that is all congruent. But then it dawns on me. What an odd title. What does Japanese for Busy People mean? Perhaps it means Japanese can be easier to learn if you are busy. The book is full of short, to-the-point phrases and sentences that are easy to learn and remember. It is extremely utilitarian and makes sure the learner is not wasting time learning casual, flippant or time-wasting sentences. “Let’s get to work.” “There’s no time to waste.” “Lunchtime’s over. Time to get back to work.”

Or perhaps it helps busy people make it clear, in Japanese, to other people that they are busy. It might be filled with sentences such as “Can’t you see I’m busy?” “I’m in a meeting. Yes, the third meeting today.” “Don’t wait up for me. I’ll be late home…again.”

Or even is it one of a series of titles about how to learn Japanese when you are a certain kind of person: would Japanese for Indolent People help you with phrases such as “Just let me sleep, would you?,” “I can’t be bothered,” or “Leave me alone. I’m too tired to do that.” Or  Japanese for Carefree People: “I love the wind blowing through my hair.”  Or Serious People: “This is no laughing matter.”

I look at the young woman’s face. She is texting someone on her phone and, at the same time, is talking to her neighbor, another young woman who is also likely a student. She is busy, right there in front of me, sitting in her seat on the bus. No wonder she has Japanese for Busy People on her lap. It makes perfect sense.

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