(Contributed by Takashi)
– this is the continuation to my earlier post My name is タ-カ-シ, but it includes the same front part because of the revisions made there –
While I was writing my previous two blogs, I remembered another similar pronunciation-related funny, but poignant at the same time, event that had occurred to me. So here I am again.
It was in fact not a single incident like the cars/cards affair. The issue was recurrent for some years. It went typically like this. A person would ask me how to pronounce my name correctly. Whoever it was, that person wanted to be polite to me – very nice of her or him.
When that happened to me, I would say, “It’s タ-カ-シ,” trying to pronounce each syllable as clearly as possible. Then, the inquirer would say, “OK. It’s Taka-she.” But the letter シ is not “She” when it is pronounced at a normal speaking speed, as one would pronounce his/her name. So, I would have to correct, “No, no. It’s not She. Its タ-カ-シ.”
This always made the inquirer either confused, awkward or embarrassed – it is because the letter シdoes sound like “She” when you enunciate it like I did in an effort to make it clear (but in my mind while I was enunciating, theシnever sounds like “She”).
Fruitless interactions could last for a while, depending on the patience of the inquirer, but it always ended with mutual frustrations: the inquirers would regret their attempt of pronouncing my name correctly in order to be polite while I would be left with a sense of inadequacy, “What is wrong with my name? It was particularly perplexing because my name is as common and simple in Japan as John is in the English speaking world.
The cause of the confusion, as you might have guessed, is the “short I.” This sound does not exist in the Japanese language, except when we try to make the E sound while our mouths are still numb from the anesthesia administered an hour ago during a dental surgery. Without anesthesia, the Japanese イsounds like a truncated “E” (by the way, this might explain why some Japanese have problem in pronunciation words like “people” and “sheet” by properly enunciation the E sound).
I never knew the fact that my イ sound and the “short I” differed until I had counselling with a speech therapist. At the first advice of the therapist, I was in disbelief because when the therapist demonstrated the “short I” by pronouncing it aloud, I could only hear the Japanese イ. So, when she asked me imitate, I would say just say “イ” – feeling in my mind, “Look, I am perfectly capable of making the so to speak short I of yours. Thank you very much.” To my surprise, however, the therapist would disprove of my version and try to demonstrate it again – and the process similar to the above mentioned my self-introduction would occur. It took me three months to get the concept of “short I” sound, and it took more than a year to be able to produce that sound with conviction constantly (– to be continued).