Very belated post, but better late than never!
After my lunch at Macs on 29 March, I went to the Spring Kyushu Fair held at the atrium in the same shopping centre. The fair consisted of stalls selling mainly food products from Kyushu. It was pretty crowded with people and the narrow passages between the stalls did not help. Quite a madhouse!
Went around looking at the stuff on sale. Passed the okonomiyaki stall and watched the chef, an older grey-haired Japanese man, cook. Suddenly I noticed that the his nametag said ‘中山好美’, which piqued my interest greatly, because I could figure out his surname was read (Nakayama) but not his given name. A young woman helping him had ‘中山あすき’ written on her name tag, so I assumed that she was most likely his daughter.
Meanwhile I smsed P to tell her about 中山好美 and his unusual name, and she did not know how it was pronounced either, so she told me to go ask him how it was read. I was like !!! But curiosity got the better of me, so I returned to the stall to ask, but he had disappeared. Another young woman whose nametag said ‘中山汐莉’ (Shiori, P proposed, after I mentioned that her nametag said her name started with S) had appeared. Probably another daughter?
Made a few more rounds around the place and noted Japanese uncles (some younger, some older) with interesting surnames like 諸冨 (Morotomi! went P) and 别府 (Beppu; personally I find this one very amusing – I was thinking if you had this surname written above your main door, no matter where you lived you’d live somewhere else!) before walking back to the okonomiyaki stall to see if 中山さんhad returned, but he hadn’t. And the place was getting pretty chaotic, so off I went to school.
After school, decided to try my luck again and went back to the okonomiyaki stall and yes! 中山さん was there, cooking! I took a deep breath and asked him, ‘Excuse me, can I ask you something? What is your name?’ He looked at me, with an extremely long and black face, and gestured to his daughter (can’t remember exactly whether it was あすき or 汐莉, but I think it was probably the latter). So his daughter looked at me, so I said, ‘Can you speak English?’ She put her thumb and index finger together and said ‘a bit’.
What followed was 鸡同鸭讲 conversation. I posed my question again, ‘What is your father’s name?’ She didn’t understand father nor name, so I repeated the question more slowly but she couldn’t get it. Finally I told her that I can read her father’s (kinda gestured at him) name in Chinese, Hao Mei. Apparently someone else must have told her about it, for she repeated Hao Mei very nicely, and finally realized my question. And she replied, ‘Yoshimi.’
Haha yay! I got my answer! Communication 101: effective communication does not always require fluency of language!!!
So I thanked her, and as I left I noticed 中山さん bend his head down to ask his daughter something – probably what I had asked her.
Then I smsed P the good news, who then declared that she would ‘have her son’s name contain mei also’, and then sent me a list of possible names: ‘Masumi, masami, takumi, tatsumi, harumi,…’ ;)
Actually I suppose the fair is a good place to study language contact, given that there are Singaporean aunties working with Japanese uncles, who may have limited or no knowledge of English or even the Chinese dialects (yes, including Mandarin!). But that is, of course, only if you can even hear them speak over the massive din!