Sunday, November 8, 2015

Playing with Kansai-ben (Sarah)

The dialect that is used where I live is called Kansai-ben, and when I first arrived in Japan I thought it would be hard to pick up and learn because the Japanese students or other Japanese people wouldn’t feel comfortable with a foreigner trying to speak in their local dialect. I quickly found out that wasn’t the case. On the day I moved in with my host family, I learned that おるwas the Kansai-ben way of saying いる. And since then, being aware that I probably didn’t understand many of the Kansai-ben phrases, my family has explained other phrases or words that have come up in conversation.
Me and one of my host sisters in a picture we took during the super moon that she then decorated and sent me. My host family in general uses a lot of Kansai-ben, but my two host sisters speak almost exclusively in it, so they have been a big help in getting me used to it.
Beyond just my host family, the Kansai Gaidai students have been enthusiastic in spreading Kansai-ben among foreign students. At first (and still sometimes when I’m using a new phrase) I would feel embarrassed using it in my daily conversation because it felt a bit unnatural, but since then I have become more accustomed to both hearing it everyday and using it myself. That is largely due to the fact that when talking to students, they will more than happily teach me new words. If they use something they think I might not understand they will stop, repeat it, ask me if I know what it means, tell me what it means, and then let me try using it. They then will continue on with what they were saying and stop again later for something else. When I use it myself in conversation sometimes they won’t notice, which is good because that means it sounded natural and fit into the conversation, but often they will. They’ll smile and maybe point out that I used Kansai-ben, or often they will just repeat what I said seemingly amused by it. They’ll often be happy and excited when I, or other international students, use it in conversation.

Me and friends from my club, tabikenkyu-bu, on an overnight trip to Otokoyama. I often hear and learn Kansai-ben from them as well as phrases from the dialects of other areas like Hokkaido. On this particular trip, that night, the six of us spent the evening comparing dialects.
To me it seems like most people are rather proud of their dialect and like that it is very distinctive. And it seems like they not only have no problem with foreigners using their dialect, they encourage it and like it when they do. Whether they like it because it is amusing to hear foreigners using it or because they are genuinely happy to be spreading their dialect. I’m not sure. I think it is a little bit of both, but I’m okay with that because it is fun to use, and it makes me feel a little bit more a part of both the school and the general community when I do.



Ruobing Xu said...

It is common in China to hear lots of dialect as well. It is not only a label but also a kind of identity. For example, I'm was born in North West but my hometown is located at South West. I will feel really touching and cardinal when I meet people who can speak South West dialect.

Sarah said...

I've always wanted to have some kind of dialect or accent because it is a really cool way to feel instantly connected someone, even with people you don't know! But sadly I just speak very normal English...