「I have..... 」 and 「Have you.... ?」
Example: I have played tennis. Have you played tennis?
So I wanted to put some Japanese on the worksheet to help out the students. Essentially I wanted to write:
Statement: I have....
Question: Have you... ?
I already know how to say 'question.' But I didn't know how to say 'statement.' So I tried looking it up in a dictionary, but they only listed statement in the sense of a statement made by an official. But I was looking for the grammatical term, because in English there are four kinds of sentences: statements, questions, exclamations, and commands.
So I wrote out an explanation with Japanese and English and asked one of my English teachers how to say statement in Japanese. She looked confused, thought for a moment, then said she didn't know. I thought maybe I didn't explain it well. The teacher said she understood what I was trying to say, but she didn't think such a word existed in Japanese. So we asked one of the Japanese language teachers if she knew a word. She agreed, no such word existed in Japanese.
Compare this to Japanese society, where my teacher was saying how it would be incredibly rude to always say "I think this" or "I want this" or "This is the best way." A good example of this difference is when earlier today a teacher offered me some of her chicken for me to try (to expose me to Japanese food). I said, "No thank you, I'm a vegetarian." When we talked about this later, she said a Japanese person would actually just accept the food in this situation and not say anything. To just frankly say "I'm a vegetarian" is just too straight forward!
She then told me of a new phrase that she hears a lot now, KY - kūki yomenai (cannot read the atmosphere). In America, someone who was KY is considered awkward and maybe shy. But in Japan, someone who is KY is confident and says their opinions and doesn't pick up on what people are thinking unless they say it. My teacher said that maybe due to international influence, it seems young people these days are more direct and cannot read the atmosphere like adults do. There are more KY people. In Japanese society, you're expected to just sense and understand what people are thinking and what they expect of you. If you did something wrong, probably no one would tell you, but they would be angry at you anyway. It's your responsibility to realize this, NOT their responsibility to tell you. Think of the classic stereotype of an angry wife (What's wrong? NOTHING'S WRONG! Come on, something is obviously wrong. YOU SHOULD KNOW WHAT'S WRONG.) While in America we would call her a bad communicator and that it's important in a relationship for both parties to express their feelings clearly, in Japan there is no such obligation or notion. If you just said what was bothering you, then YOU'RE the bad person.
In school they don't write declarative or argumentative essays. They repeat back facts and memorize equations. English class is not about writing essays and proving your ideas, it's about studying grammar, learning kanji, and reading passages. This difference is reflected in the Japanese language as well. When you speak Japanese, you almost always will drop the subject of a sentence completely. Instead of saying "I went to the store" you just say "went to the store." In fact the word for you (anata) is quite rude to use. It's too intimate and familiar.
Now as a foreigner, everyone KNOWS that Americas are more direct and can't read the atmosphere. So people will often be much more direct with me and tell me if I do something wrong. But it's impossible to say how often I'm told I made a mistake and how often everyone just stays quiet. Meanwhile, my direct statement "Oh no thank you, I'm a vegetarian" was accepted without incident. Even though if a Japanese person had done it, that would have been quite rude.
Now of course there are many people in America who don't say what they're thinking. And there are many people in Japan who do say exactly what they're thinking. This is just a generalization of what I have noticed and my Japanese teachers have explained to me. But it's still really interesting to see how these two different systems which are almost opposites of each other can produce two different but equally productive and successful societies.
What do you think? Would you rather live in one society or another? I know I am a very straight forward person, even too much so in America. So in Japan, I have to work incredibly hard to fit in and not be too forward. The language barrier actually helps me with that, making it difficult to cause trouble with my coworkers when having even basic conversations can be a struggle.