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The PAL Program at UCD
Transcript of The PAL Program at UCD
"This intercultural conversation program pairs up U.S. students with new international students at UC Davis for informal conversation practice."
Greetings in Translation
Say hello to my partner, Taro, who is a young man from Tokyo, Japan!
Taro can already speak English well, so he was particularly interested in some of America's common vernacular - slang, phrases, and sayings that don't make much literal sense.
Amusingly for both of us, explaining why we use these phrases can be hard for even a native speaker!
"Curiosity killed the cat."
"Hit the sack."
"That is wicked cool!"
"That's hella funny."
Since I am from New England and not Northern California, Taro and I could compare words and phrases that I used differently from the ones Taro had been hearing while at Davis.
I say "wicked" a lot!
English All Over
Jaffrey, NH, where I am from - much different than Tokyo!
Taro and I decided to do some cultural taste testing!
Taro brought Japanese rice cookies and I brought maple sugar candies from Vermont! Yum!
Turns out we both have a sweet tooth, so the candies went over well!
It's not all about language
Meeting with Friends
Talk Like Taro!
Tokyo, the capital of Japan!
Taro and I didn't just practice language, we also talked a lot about cultural differences, such as how families and friends typically interact.
Welcome to California
Japanese is an East Asian language spoken by about 125 million speakers. It is a member of the Japonic language family.
Tokyo University of Science, where Taro studies physics
One interest we both shared was cultural differences in educational systems, especially prior to university, and the global variance in success of these different systems.
Much of what we initially knew about each other's culture was based on stereotype, often media induced, but made for good starting points in conversation.
One day we were able to meet together with another pair of PAL partners: Alisha, a native of Northern California, and Yuri, who is from Kyoto, Japan.
This provided a particularly vibrant conversation because there were four voices, all with different accents, backgrounds, and experiences. It was interesting to hear about Yuri's life in Kyoto versus Taro's in Tokyo. Taro and Yuri enjoyed hearing more about American pop culture and American sayings from both Alisha and me, who have had different experiences in different parts of the USA.
Taro was practicing English, but that didn't mean he didn't have time to teach me a little Japanese!
Japanese phonology is quite different to English. Firstly, all Japanese vowels are pure, meaning that there are no dipthongs like in English.
Some consonants are very different as well. For instance, for Taro, the difference between an English 'R' and English 'L' is difficult to hear and pronounce because in Japanese they are the same sound.
Not to mention, of course, that their writing system and alphabet are completely different. Word order in Japanese is subject-object-verb and, unlike Indo-European languages, the only strict rule is that the verb must be placed at the end. Even Taro admitted that it is a very complicated language to learn!
A Great Experience
Overall, the most important part is that both Taro and I found a great conversation partner!
"Language Facts." Japanese Language. BBC, n.d. Web. 13 Sept. 2013.
"PAL Program." Linguistics Department. UC Davis, n.d. Web. 14 Sept. 2013.
"Speaking and Writing." Language:The Japanese Language. Columbia University, n.d. Web. 12 Sept. 2013.