Four months into this job and I am noticing something new in me. My voice has grown bigger (no, I am not turning into a man and growing adam’s apple!), and the Japanese words that is coming out of my mouth are becoming clearer, the person at the other end of the line, happier.
I had been talking Japanese for as long as I can remember — for almost half of my entire life since coming to Japan to study, work and got married to a local. I am so confident in using the language at home and at work while in Japan. The words come out freely — would you believe, even when I’m sleeptalking!
Things started to change when I came here. My main duty is coordination with the Japanese market — to talk to the people in Japanese office, in Nihongo (Japanese language), of course. So what’s the big deal? For a non-stop talker like me, it seemed like a piece of cake. What freaked me out was that, everytime I pick up the phone, extreme silence fills the office and 20 pairs of eyes are on me. The handset suddenly becomes slippery as sweat trickles through my hands. I am nervous. For the first time, I am concious of the foreign language I had been so used to.
Telephone conversations can make some people shy. It makes me lower my voice down than necessary and duck to escape inquisitive looks. It is very hard to believe when I say I am shy on the phone, especially if you have seen me talk in private.
The senseless shyness has to end. I have to put on my best telephone voice – low, slow and friendly so I can be understood clearly and pretend I am not wishing I was doing a hundred other things. Voice reflects mood and I should be aware of my own before I open my mouth. Ignore the 20 pairs of eyes — the 20 pairs of ears that goes with them DON’T understand a single word I am talking, anyway. That was it!! That was the key to my freedom.
Now I am more confident and getting things right for the job. The people at the Japan office are relieved they can talk to me without doubting if I am really able to understand what they are intending to say. I am no longer nervous, no reason to be, really. The conversations I have with people on the phone is not restricted to work alone, some of the people at the other end of the line had become my friends and the work relationship we have had become smooth, conversations, easy and flawless.
I am finally having an intelligent phone conversation in Japanese, minus the jitters. Maybe my Japanese isn’t that bad after all. ?????????????Maybe I’ll start writing a blog in Nihongo.