Thursday, February 25, 2010
should I ask advanced learners?
Sadly, these questions could all be resolved by the learner himself, if he would just be patient and get more exposure to the language. What's scary, though, is that the answers given can be wrong or give you the wrong idea. There's a word in English for this. It's called misinformation. These answers are often given by very confident-sounding advanced learners.
I bring this topic up now because today I was reminded of an experience I had. This morning I was reading a training tutorial for MS Excel in Japanese. Almost 5 years ago, not long after I had started to work for a Japanese company and in a Japanese work environment, I had to write some kind of a user manual in Japanese. I don't remember if it was for an application that I had coded or not, but I think it was.
It was my first time writing such a document in Japanese. I had used in it, a certain grammatical form (-たり…-たりする). My coworkers who were Chinese checked the document I had written and said that this was not a structure which could be used in this kind of document. There were 2 of them saying this, and 1 was the team-leader who had been working at that location for over 4 years already. They were both way better than I was at Japanese. In fact, they were chuckling about the fact that I had written a sentence like that in the document. Apparently, they thought this was some kind of casual-only structure. I, however, couldn't see anything wrong with it and I was a little offended by their laughter. I argued that they were wrong and there was no reason it couldn't be used in a software manual.
But how would I know? I hadn't read any software books in Japanese. I didn't have any experience to recall upon. I hadn't any examples to show them. They were the advanced learners. They knew more than I did.
So, the next thing we did, we had the supervisor read my document to see what he would say. He was a native Japanese speaker. And guess what? He didn't laugh at the structure. He didn't point it out. He didn't say anything about it. There was nothing wrong with using that in the document.
Since that time I have seen this structure used in published software books. And today I saw it again in the training manual. It was a reminder to me. A reminder never to listen to what another language learner says about the language. You can do all of your learning right in the language itself. There are examples of the language everywhere, although it's best to use published books because they will have been proof-read.