Alright you lot, I have an entertaining story to share about how I messed up when speaking Japanese and caused an apparent major change.
Every weekend, I have the opportunity to be an English conversation partner with some Japanese university students who have a very basic level of English. While we are encouraged to stick with English (yay for me), we are permitted to use Japanese if there seems to be a real comprehension block. My level of Japanese is about as basic as their English, which results in our conversations being a peculiar kind of communication that is simultaneously awkward and very fun.
Last weekend, I got to meet some new students. We did the usual introduction questions and answers, like “what is your name,” “what is your hobby,” and the like. Then we got to “What is your major?” I tried to answer, “Psychology,” but their faces didn’t seem to register any recognition.
While I’ve been doing WK and grammar study for a year, it has mostly been recognition-based, and I have kind of put off practicing speaking and listening practice… I’m rather shy about it, and it’s a hurdle I’m working on. So, trying to be brave and use some Japanese, I attempted to say the Japanese word for psychology, “しんりがく.” Unfortunately, it had been about a year since I learned the basic Japanese self-introductions, and I hadn’t had to say my major anytime since. I was trying to recall the sounds but was running out of time. The pause was beginning to be awkward, but I didn’t want to abandon my newfound courage. Hurriedly, I mustered all of the 頑張って vibes I could, and I gave it my best shot, saying, “りんしがく！”
cue the crickets. Judging by the looks of confusion mixed with the very confused muttering 「りんしがく。。。？」, I figured I got the word wrong and quickly looked up the proper word, noticing I had flip-flopped the sounds. I corrected myself and could see the students’ expressions change from befuddled to understanding in an instant. We all had a good laugh about it and continued on.
Later that evening, after the video call, the りんしがく event was almost forgotten, I decided to look up what it was I could have possibly said. And holy moly I about died of embarrassment and laughter once I saw that, as far as I can understand, りんしがく at best means “the study of the neighboring city,” （隣市学） and at worst means “the study of near-death.” （臨死学）
So there’s that, I suppose I am now pursuing my major in near-death studies. Please consult me for any of your near-death needs.