Stuff The Translation

| Japan | Coworkers, Language & Words, Lazy/Unhelpful, School

(I’m an American working as an assistant language teacher in Japan. I work with multiple JTEs, or Japanese teachers of English, in teaching English at junior high schools. I’m not allowed to speak Japanese during English class, so many JTEs take it upon themselves to translate my words for me when the students absolutely cannot understand and make repeated incorrect guesses. One particular JTE, however, is adamant about never translating for me, even when the students become so confused that the lesson cannot progress. This has been going on for a couple of months when this lesson takes place. The Japanese are, as a whole, very strict in terms of cleanliness and preventing the spread of germs and sickness.)

Me: *holding up a stuffed animal* “This is a dog!”

Students: *in Japanese, to one another* “That’s not a dog. That’s a toy.”

Me: “Correct! This is a stuffed animal. It LOOKS like a dog, but it isn’t a dog. What does “stuffed” mean in Japanese?”

(The students give various guesses.)

Me: “I’ll give you a hint.” *I rub my stomach* “Mmmm, I’m so stuffed!” *I place a bunch of books inside a basket and make a show of trying to squish them down to fit* “This basket is STUFFED with books!”

(After several awkward minutes of me trying to make them understand and not succeeding, I glance desperately at the JTE. The students, too, look to the JTE for an explanation. The JTE pointedly looks away, and that’s when I’ve had enough.)

Me: “Okay, fine.”

(I take the grammar worksheet that the JTE has made, wad it into an enormous ball, and without hesitation stuff the whole thing into my mouth.)

Students: “WHAAAAAT?”

JTE: *nervously* “Um… hold on…”

(I remove the ball, which has become a giant spit wad, and plonk it down onto the JTE’s desk, much to his utter horror.)

Me: “Get it now? I STUFFED the paper into my mouth! My mouth is STUFFED with paper!”

(Finally, it dawns on one of my students what I’m talking about.)

Student: *in Japanese* “…stuffed?”

Me: “YES! Thank you!”

JTE: “Um…”

Me: *already moving on to the next object* “Okay, next! What’s this?”

(The lesson continues without further incident, except that the JTE keeps staring at the spit wad on his desk. After class gets out, I throw the spit wad away then kindly wipe down his desk to remove the traces of spit. Maybe next time he’ll translate for me.)

Educate Your Boss On This One

| OR, USA | Bosses & Owners, Family & Kids, Geeks Rule

(I answer the phone. I am a Midwest transplant.)

Me: “Thank you for calling [Business]. This is [My Name] speaking. How may I direct your call?”

Customer: “Manager! Now!”

Me: “Thank you; please hold for [Manager].”

(Manager storms out of his office minutes later.)

Manager: “How dare you answer the phone like a machine! I keep getting complaints!”

Me: “I’m sorry; I answer how I’ve been taught in previous jobs.”

Manager: “But you sound too… educated!”

Me: “Well, I am working here to supplement my income while getting my PhD.”

Manager: “Answer how your parents taught you!”

Me: “My parents, as in the history professor at [Prestigious Private School] and the economics professor at [First Tier State School]?”

Manager: “What about your first job?”

Me: “At the private library?”

(Manager stares at me.)

Manager: “This is what happens when nerds have kids!”

Erase That Last Comment

| Asia | Coworkers, Language & Words, Rude & Risque

(I’m working at a summer job which teaches local students English as a second language. Although I and other local teachers use British English, I’m currently working on a poster with an older, higher ranking male colleague from America. I’m female.)

Me: *I make a mistake on the poster* “Ugh. Hey, pass me a rubber, would you?”

(The male colleague just stares at me, uncomfortable, until I repeat the question.)

Colleague: “Er, no.”

Me: “…why not?”

Colleague: “I can’t do that!”

Me: “What are you talking about? You have one right there… oh.”

(I pause, horrified, as I remember some crucial differences between American and British vocabulary.)

Me: “Oh, God, no! I meant an eraser! An eraser, to rub something out! I made a mistake, so I need an eraser!”

Colleague: “Phew. Fine then. I thought I was going to have to give a lecture on workplace boundaries.”

BLT, Better Luck Tomorrow, Part 3

, | Atlanta, GA, USA | Bosses & Owners, Employees, Extra Stupid, Food & Drink

(There’s a cafeteria located on our college campus. Most of the employees, but not all, tend to be enrolled in the culinary school.)

Employee: “Hi, what can I do for you?”

Me: “I think I’ll have a BLT on sourdough, please.”

(The employee gets a baffled look and turns to whisper something to the manager.)

Manager: “Really?! It’s bacon, lettuce, tomato!”

BLT, Better Luck Tomorrow, Part 2
BLT, Better Luck Tomorrow

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