Robert & Roberta Adair

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I hope that someday I’ll be able to communicate in Japanese well – listening, speaking, nonverbals, etc.  That’s a real (and noble ) goal/hope/prayer.  Connected with that, though, is that I hope I’ll communicate things that are worth communicating.

I remember when a friend in Kosovo said to me, “Be careful of the time when you’ll be able to really tell people off in Albanian.”  Before my language hit a certain level, upsetting things were happening and being said, but I was kind of in my own la-la land.  Then – bam – I understood my first cruel joke.  Or I understood that I was being misrepresented or misunderstood.  It took awhile, but eventually I was able to (and occasionally did) ream into people about litter and things that annoyed (and frustrated or hurt) me.  R teases me about chasing a dude on my bike yelling, “You destroyer of beauty!! You destroyer of beauty!!” in Albanian when he tossed a soda can out of his car.  Instead of bashing his windows with his can or bottle (yes, that’s what I wanted to do), I held onto the hope that I would intimidate him into apologizing and saying that he would never, ever litter again.

Roberta on bicycle

An even less happy memory was walking home from the store and seeing some kids picking on (beating) a Roma (gypsy) kid.  There were a bunch of men smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee, passively watching the scene.  Yep, I have a strong sense of justice and have something in me that, to a fault, I feel the need to protect the underdog.  So I walked up yelling at the boys (10?) in English and Albanian…then after the mini-mob dispersed I angrily yelled at the men watching (“What kind of men are you?  It’s your job to protect the little guy.  You are weak.  Look at you smoking, drinking, sitting on your bums.  You disgust me.”)  I realize now that I was inappropriate (although I still feel self-righteous) and that I could’ve really gotten into trouble (young American woman telling off a bunch of M* men).  More than that, I could’ve done some serious damage for the people with whom I was working.

There is a question that I’ve heard talked about a few times in the last year or so.  Which is the worse sin: to lose your temper or to lie?  Almost all Americans answer the latter whereas Japanese say the first.  (so…what am I doing here again? Especially when I’m so good at losing my temper.)

house wall

But I digress.  I want to speak Japanese well.  Yet there is a part of me that wants to communicate well so that I can tell people what I think.  Yuck.  I read the stuff about coming into a new culture as a learner, but there’s this snotty part of me that thinks I have answers and can fix problems around me.  “When I can speak really well, get ready Japan…!” (savior-complex-itis.  It’s gross.)

I want to speak Japanese well – but will I have anything useful to say?  Will I be yet another religious worker that is known for talking but not listening or caring?  Will I communicate “translated English” and not be understood?  Or will I learn to communicate in Japanese for Japanese people?  R and I sometimes compare two Japanese English speakers we know. One speaks with a bit of an accent and makes grammatical mistakes, but we understand this person perfectly. Another speaks with grammatical precision and with a lovely accent but I can’t for the life of me understand what this person is saying (Japanese is quite vague).

Anyhow, I was really impressed with R the other night.  We were meeting with some people over dinner – people who have invited us into their lives for accountability and advice.  So many times, I was trying to figure out how to tell them what I thought they should do (“Stop doing…! What you need to do is simply…. Well that was clearly a hurtful and unhealthy thing to do…”).  Thankfully, my language isn’t up to snuff to say this stuff in time.  But R listened.  He asked questions.  I watched this couple start the dinner leaning really far away from and barely looking at one another to leaning toward each other, definitely ending the evening more affectionately than how they started.  It wasn’t through some tough love, bossy show down.  It was through speaking and listening in Japanese in a way that communicated care and concern.  I was so proud of and humbled by R.

Please pray for us as we continue to learn Japanese.  And pray for our hearts to be humble and sensitive to what God wants us to say and hear.   Thanks.

Originally posted on Adair Update...

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