CH 9 SPEAKING ENGLISH (OR NOT) (Hanako)
Some days, being brave means saying, “konnichiwa” to the barista she sees nearly every day at the coffee shop she frequents, slightly terrified that even more of the language will be expected than she is prepared to give.
Occasionally, Hanako risks a timid, genki desu ka? But mostly, she makes a concerted effort to not bolt as soon as she speaks her order. What is the worst that can happen to me if I try and then fail to move beyond, ‘good afternoon’ and ‘how are you?’
The worst, as it turns out, is finding out three weeks later that the barista speaks English--fluently.
Hanako is typing away, wrapped in a beautiful concentration-cocoon of coffee shop conversations she cannot understand (works so much better than music), when--the words flowing effortlessly from her brain to her fingertips--trip.
An English speaker is flirting with one of the girls at the coffee bar. Ugh! She thinks. Dude, you need to think of a better pick-up topic and why do you have to be here, at my office, with your English, ruining my focus?
But then, with a sweet lilt of the voice Hanako recognizes instantly, her Japanese-speaking barista, answers in not-at all-annoyed, English!
Hanako swivels in her chair, stares.
Sure enough, a blond, slightly freckled guy (nerdy-cute with his button-down shirt and khaki shorts--what was he, on safari?), is roping her barista into an educated conversation about the art of making Soba Noodles.
Hanako had been so afraid of not connecting with a native Japanese speaker because she herself did not speak Japanese, that Hanako had failed to connect--in any language.