Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-023
On a recent business trip to the United States I chatted with some Japanese travelers next to me on the plane about what would be the most useful English expressions for travelers with only a little English. Our conversation began with the matter of filling out the Customs and Immigration Declaration Card, but it also touched on the daily situations of sightseers and longer-staying visitors, like students. Among us we made a list of a couple dozen expressions and joked about them. But on my return to Tokyo from southern California I thought the following list is not nearly as facetious or crazy as it seems:
Useful expressions for visiting America
1. Hands up!
2. Don’t shoot!
3. Everyone on the floor!
4. Put the money in the bag!
5. Do what I say and I won’t hurt you!
6. I want to talk to my lawyer.
Published on Sunday, October 23, 2011 as “Useful expressions for U.S. visits.”
Of course, I didn’t really take a business trip to the U.S. That is only fictional context for the list story to give it more ground in people’s imagination. The paper edited the letter for space - it printed a total of nine letters today - and I’m a little disappointed by the cuts. But not too disappointed. The gist of the letter is still there. It’s funny. The list actually stems from a conversation topic with a group of adult students at an English conversation school. In that class the students’lists and mine featured expressions like “Hello,” “Good-bye,” “Please,” “Thankyou,” and “Where is the toilet?”