Before I really get into it, I have an embarassing confession to make. I came up with this topic while watching The Last Samurai, which is generally reprehensible. It is Hollywoody, formulaic, features TC freakin’ out about stuff, and really caricaturizes and fetishizes Japanese culture. All that aside, any opportunity to hear Ken Watanabe speak English is delightful. For all I know, he may be perfectly fluent in the language, but the way he was constructing sentences, with the intonation, accent, word choice… awesome, and almost warranting a “badass” tag for this post.

So far, I have this completely backwards, rambling about people whose first languages I don’t understand speaking English. Let’s try again.

I suppose the context for this post is largely from watching foreign films. Toronto is extremely multicultural, but the amount of time I’ve sat and tried to puzzle out what people are talking about in real life is dwarfed by the number of hours I’ve spent watching non-English movies with the helpful guide of subtitles to carry me along.

Being able to slowly tease out individual words, or even just specific sounds,  from the initially indecipherable mass is remarkably rewarding. Being able to tie these sounds to certain meanings is all the more so. For most of my life, the thought of teaching someone English, or being taught a language by someone non-formally, first-hand, has been extremely appealing. Like most North Americans, I can really only speak English, though being in French Immersion at a young age has probably done me some good. I’ve done a bit of traveling, and often am loathe to try and communicate with people in the local language. I am far too afraid of failure and embarrassment for my own good. But, thinking of it, if I were to run into a tourist here who approached me and gave it their level best to communicate with me in horrible fractured English, I would most likely go out of my way to pay attention and meet their effort with my own (of trying to figure out what the hell they were saying).

I suppose that is one of the reasons why I own a copy of the aforementioned movie; TC bumbling through basic Japanese vocab, guided by two young children… someone find me a renegade samurai village in the mountains, administer my wooden katana beatings, and sign me up!


Complete non-sequitur. Unavoidable drum & bass music recommendation.