Why You Need To “Unlearn” Your English (or any second language)

How do I say "bless you" in Japanese when someone sneezes? Why do Japanese people say "itadakimasu" (I shall take/eat it) before eating something? Well, language and culture are closely tied to each other. And to really speak a second language naturally, you need to learn the culture as well. But, what if that second culture contains something bad, like discrimination? (more…)


Notes on Haruki Murakami’s “Honey Pie”

Yesterday I was invited to Prof. Miho Matsugu's class at DePaul University entitled "Queer Japan" to discuss with the class as well as Prof. Yuki Miyamoto "Honey Pie", a Haruki Murakami short story. The class was composed of students with various backgrounds and motivations for study of Japan, and the discussion turned out to be quite an opportunity for me (and for Yuki, as she later told me) to explore many other possible readings of the story than ours. Since the class session didn't last long enough for all of us to fully share our interpretations of the story, I'm sure some of the students had a lot more to say than we got to hear. I myself left out some of the points that I had in my notes. My expertise is queer theory and feminist critique (although that's got more to do with literature, not my official discipline sociology). Queer theory and feminist critique are, you know, things that some people like, some others loathe; some people need them to make sense of the gendered/heterosexualized world, some people don't need them because the world already makes sense to them. So here I am, trying to share my reading of "Honey Pie," so that some of the class who may find this example of queer reading interesting——or at least worth-thinking about——can get a glimpse of what is queer about queer-reading. (more…)