By Bryson Torgovitsky
On November 5th, the day before the Blue Star of Life event at the Kennedy Center, I attended a meeting with the Japanese students who would be working with our DC group at the event. Before the meeting, I had been in contact with Matsuki Koh, a student at the Kwansei Gakuin University School of Economics, about the details of the event. We had been emailing in English, but I planned to speak in Japanese when I met him and the other university students in person. At the start of the meeting, a brief introduction session was held. The Japanese students introduced themselves in English, and I followed suit out of nervousness.
As the day progressed, our discussion became more detailed but we continued speaking English. It became apparent to me that this was difficult for some of the students, and I felt guilty for my need for English conversation. I told the students that I could follow their conversation if they spoke in Japanese, but I would not be able to respond in kind. They kindly asked if I was sure, and agreed when I assured them that I was. At that point, the conversation was about the number of people in each student discussion group. I was able to follow them through my lessons from Japanese Plus, but I was still provided summaries at the ends of key lines of dialogue by the Japanese students. I tried to assure them that I had understood fine on my own, but they were insistent so I relented. I could tell that it was difficult to summarize a Japanese conversation in English, but I admired the language skills of the university students as they did just that.
I hope to outgrow the training wheels by continuing studying on my own time and in Japanese Plus, but I am thankful to our university partners for their politeness during our planning phase. I think that we managed to conduct our plans perfectly at the Kennedy Center and our programs at the Embassy of Japan afterwards!