Japanese Interpreter By Default

When I was in elementary school I was the only Asian student in the school. One day a foreign exchange student from Japan enrolled in the school. The principal and other main office workers didn’t know how to communicate so they called me down to the office.


Without even asking if I was Japanese, they asked me to tell her all this stuff about the school and where her classes were going to be, etc. I explained to them that I wasn’t Japanese and didn’t speak Japanese.

Anyway, I just used very simple words and gestures to explain some things to her -- my mother doesn’t speak English so I had some experience in getting someone to understand English when they don’t speak the language. I ended up being her interpreter while she was with us (1/2 a school year).

During that time, I used some Cantonese and she used some Japanese if we really couldn’t get our points across and sometimes we discovered the words were the same or very similar. By the time she left she was able to understand some basic English. At first I was annoyed by the whole thing, but it turned out to be very rewarding.

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