January 10, 2011 | Japanese
New Yorkese and Japanese
More multilingual café encounters.
Practicing my Japanese writing skills at Café Margot this morning, I heard two very different languages.
Site of Today’s Language Encounters
One emerged from the mouth of a maybe 30-something woman who parked herself long-term at a table without offering any evidence of food, or coffee, or coffee companions.
What she did have, however, was a cell phone. And a loud voice. She talked on and on in a language that was not English.
Fortunately, when you are forced to listen to other people’s high-volume phone conversations that you don’t want to hear, it is much less distracting when you can’t understand what is being said than when you can. I never did figure out what language she was speaking, but she annoyed me only a medium amount.
The other language I heard was spoken by an elderly man at the table immediately to my left. He was talking to himself while reading the New York Times in a way I would characterize as highly interactive. As he read along, he groaned, fidgeted, held his head, pressed hard on his temples, and alternately popped up and then slumped down in his seat, punctuating all these activities with passionate utterances. As in: “those fucking bastards.” Or, “I want to kill those guys.” And other words and phrases in that vein.
No one paid him the slightest bit of attention.
While I do not have formal training in it, I believe he was speaking a version of New Yorkese. If you are delicate in linguistic temperament, the subways—and I guess maybe cafés!—of this city are not for you.
From a Pimsleur lesson today, I learned that you stick yo on the end of a Japanese sentence when you want to show emphasis in the vein of “I’m sure.” For example, “John will show up soon yo.” Or, “The economy is improving fast yo.” Since acquiring this new bit of knowledge, I have been walking around sticking yo’s on the ends of things.
I find it very empowering. I sound like a tough New Yorker!
Or not. But it’s fun.