When living in a foreign country and immersed in a foreign culture and language you learn new things on a daily basis. Some are fun lessons and others not. I am a fairly fluent Japanese speaker but I still learn new words every day. I find I am an experiential learner, a hands on kind of person. If I have some kind of experience that can be linked to that word, it becomes forever etched in my brain and I don’t forget it.
I am that kid who, when told not to touch because it is hot, automatically reaches out to check. I learnt, didn’t do that again!
I am that kid who, when told not to climb up there because it is dangerous, climbs up checks it out and promptly falls off and breaks her arm. I learnt, didn’t do that again!
Ultimately it has turned me into the teacher I am. When teaching words about taste like sweet, bitter, hot, spicy, disgusting, crunchy, slimy and so on, I am the teacher who blindfolds the kids and pops random food in their mouths. The kid who gets a blob of wasabi always has an interesting reaction! (Actually have to say in this day and age of allergies this lesson has been put on the side line a bit as I don’t want my experiential learning curve to include treatment for anaphylactic shock!)
I am the teacher who, when teaching words like surprise, waits till the class is silent and concentrating and then smacks a ruler down on some poor kids desk eliciting great surprise and then teaches Bikkuri or Odoroki meaning surprised.
Which brings me to my own learning experience and the new word of the day.
New word of the day
Zayaku － ざやく － 座薬
Yep, without going into to great detail, I can say it was not a good day! However it was a learning experience in more ways than one. As well as being an experiential learner, I do believe in looking for the good in things. Yes one of those annoying “cup half full” people and even during this unpleasant medical experience there are humourous moments. On these I will elaborate.
The funny side of a bad day,
No matter how good my Japanese is, I hate being ill in Japan and dread going to the doctor. I have a wide vocabulary due to my life experiences in Japan. I can say “Pee pee”, “wee wee” and “poo poo” with the best of them having babysat for a three year but get me in a formal situation while writhing in pain and all the technical language like urine, kidney, high blood pressure etc are all an utter and complete foreign language to me. So her I am a woman in her late 40’s saying to the doctor, I can’t go pee pee and I have a big ouch about here”. In retrospect I find this funny.
I was getting a little worried as the well meaning doctor pulled out her IPad and Google Translate and took me through words like drip and my new favourite zayaku but the pain overrode any misgivings and I just asked her to go ahead. Once the pain meds kicked in things were much better and I found it hilariously funny when the nurse tried to pantomime the best way to insert suppositories for pain relief when at home.
From a linguistic point of view zayaku is funny too. It is made up of 2 kanji, or characters 座 and 薬. Each has its own meaning.
The second character 薬 yaku, can also be read kusuri which means medicine. The top bit indicates some link to plants and the bottom bit is the kanji for enjoyable 楽. Given how far back Kanji dates I have a funny picture in my head of ancient Chinese scholars who were all high on some kind of medicinal herb and having a jolly good time when they allocated the kanji for medicine.
The first character za 座 totally encapsulates the meaning of a suppository. Za can also be read as suwaru which means to sit. So there we have it Za + Yaku 座 + 薬 – What do you get if you sit on your medicine? zayaku or a suppository! Not to be confused with Yakuza, which is a whole different Kanji and meaning. That’s a Japanese gangster and I would would hate to think what would happen if you sat on a Yakuza!
So there we have it. From pain came learning, I learnt a new word and how to write it in Kanji. I have also added a new card to my charades box as the nurse had me in fits. Who ever said learning is not fun?
Yoroshiku Onegai shimasu