Frustrating Crash-Course in Japanese in Guatemala

This is part of the library at Hostel el Sol. The English selection is limited.

My return trip to Hostel el Sol was met with a surprise. This time, I’m the only gringo, and the only person in the hostel, aside from staff, who doesn’t speak Japanese.

However, I looked at this as a challenge. For the past two days, I’ve given myself a crash course in Japanese. I found that as long as I apply myself, I can speak a language that’s not even Indo-European.

Using YouTube videos from the Japan Society, I can say basic things like, “I went to the restaurant” (レストラン に行きました。/ Resutoran ni ikimashita.), or “I ate sushi today” (今日寿司を食べました。/ Kyō sushi ni tabemashita.). The trick is to start with a few basic words and practice to make simple sentences and then have simple conversations with native speakers. Most people I try to communicate with in Japanese are not only stunned, but excited that I’m attempting to speak their language.

Still, it’s annoying to have to break the Spanish lessons with Japanese lessons. I’ll catch myself saying “sí” or “gracias” when I mean to say “はい / hai” or “ありがと / arigato.” At the very least, I’ve invented a new language called “Spingrish.”

The map at the front of the hostel is mainly Japanese. There’s also some Spanish.

I struggle a lot, and a girl sitting next to me giggled intensely as I repeated “I’m going to work tomorrow” (明日仕事おします。/ Ashita shigoto o shimasu.) this morning, but to me it’s worth some humiliation to learn a new language.

Disclaimer: My goal is not to learn the Japanese alphabets of hiragana, katakana or kanji. I used Google Translate to type Japanese characters phonetically, and then typed the same sentence in romaji in Microsoft Word.

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