Graduation season has rolled around again here in Japan.
I don’t remember how much I’ve talked about graduations on here offhand, but today was the graduation at my elementary school. Back home, the idea of graduation from elementary school seems silly. Here in Japan, though, it’s a big rite of passage.
As part of the ceremony at my elementary school, the students make a short speech after they get their diplomas. In them, they thank their parents for raising them up that point. After that, they go to meet their parents in the audience. They hand off the diploma, a gift from the PTA (which has been a Japanese-English dictionary every year that I’ve been here), and a small bouquet of flowers they receive so that they can go back to their seats and do their part in the rest of the ceremony unencumbered.
I just finished reading a book called Japan & America, by Bernice Z. Goldstein and Kyoko Tamura. It examines certain differences between Japanese and American linguistics in the interest of using those differences as a base for analysis of cultural differences. Their specific interest is in who is talking, how that person talks to the listener, and how they talk about a third party, when mentioned. In their own words:
We assume that any language is a pattern through which a speaker learns how to conceive of himself in relation to others and learns to think of others in relation to himself and still others. Most particularly throughout the course of this book, we suggest that Americans and Japanese see these relationships of speaker to listener and to third parties in very different ways, and we believe that the differences between American English and Japanese melt into differences between culture and personality in our two societies. Fundamentally our problem concerns the question of who is related to whom and how. This question is pertinent to the study of any language, but our focus is “who is related to whom and how” as it applies to differences between American and Japan, first from the vantage point of language differences and later as it applies to differences in culture and personality.