Epic Fail Story -- I guess I study death, now

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.


Omg that is hilarious! Thank you for sharing :joy_cat:


Your psychology thesis should be on the crossover-area of foreign-language Spoonerisms and cultural attitudes to death! Thank you for sharing :smiley:

Edit: I’ve just seen that we can do more than like ( :hearts:) a post - is that new??


I just noticed that! I haven’t seen it until just now. I think it is new!


Saiyan people could learn a thing or two from your research. They need near-dead experience to power-up their battle power.

So keep up the good work my friend.


I frequently have a problem with flip-flopping like that. One time I tried to ask my principal about the sports festival (うんどうかい) but instead said うどんかい (noodle party?)
Good times.


Not gonna lie, I’m keen for 饂飩会 more than 運動会.


That’s a great story! Thank you for sharing :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:


Reminds me of something that happened in my Japanese class at university. We were talking about food, and everyone was supposed to say what they usually had for breakfast. There was more than one person who instead of くだもの said こども… The teacher didn’t even bat an eye, so either she was also quite experienced in near-death studies or this sort of thing happens regularly!


This legitimately made me laugh out loud. I hope that someday I may attend an うどんかい :laughing:


I am so glad this isn’t just me. The number of times my tutor stares at me blankly as I frantically try the re-arrange the onyomi in multiple orders until one makes sense.


They’ve disappeared :cry:

Oh darn :slightly_frowning_face: Maybe it interfered with the community badges, or the hearts is just the preferred way. It was fun while it lasted, though!

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Jacqueline Stone has some research material for ya!


Lol moments like that are epic and never a dull moment. I get them a lot but people/kids usually ask me if I’m sure something I said was right or if it was something else. While I still live in Japan I try to fire off any talking I can cause communicating will always be so different from any studies.


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