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Rural Japanese Children Say The Darndest Things (About Foreigners)

2009 October 24

The other day, I was having lunch with a class of fourth graders I had never met before. During the usual question-and-answer period, one of them asked me what my least favorite food was, and I answered “nattou” (the fermented soybeans that Japanese people eat with rice for breakfast). One of the girls clowning around out of her seat said “All foreigners are the same after all. They all love sushi and hate nattou.”

Yesterday I was at a school where I’ve eaten with the second and first graders, who love me a lot more than my actual students do. When I went outside for recess, I was surrounded by them and bombarded with English questions. One of the first graders was particularly impressed and kept saying, “Foreigners are really amazing! They can speak English!” A second grade girl pointed out to her, “They speak English, like we speak Japanese.” But the first grader was convinced: based on the foreigners she’d met (myself and the previous ALT), all of them speak Japanese and English, so they’re amazing.

I’m glad that the older kids have a more realistic view of the world. Well, sort of – the sixth graders I had lunch with yesterday were convinced that the English word for something is its Japanese equivalent pronounced funny. (They haven’t quite got the concept that, in cases where it is, the Japanese word originated in English.) But that first grader definitely cheered me up from earlier this week. It may be true that most foreigners dislike nattou and do like sushi, but there are exceptions – and nattou is gross anyway!

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