Soaking in it

28May09

I arrived at my island school this morning to find no students. Apparently the weather (strong winds and rain) was too dangerous, and they all had the day off. But one of the quirks of the Japanese school system is that weather too dangerous for students is not too dangerous for staff, even though the students come by bus from other parts of the (very small) island, and all the staff come by car from up to an hour away, crossing the long, exposed-to-wind-and-rain bridge from the mainland en route. So the staffroom is full but the rest of the school is empty.

Anyway, this means I have the day off, more or less. I still have to sit in the staffroom this morning, and at my desk in the main office this afternoon, but I’m left to my own devices. I’ve been using the time to catch up on my Japanese studies, since the JLPT is coming up in a couple of months and I want to pass level 2 this time.

I was plodding along quite happily, writing out corrections and going through listening scripts from an example exam paper, when I found this lovely dialogue. It’s a conversation between a new employee at a company (a woman) and a slightly more senior employee (a man), which takes place during the lunch hour.
Here it is in its, with my translations in italics:

男:ねえ、何読んでるの?
Man: Say, what are you reading?
女:あ、これ?パソコンのマニュアルです。難しくって。
Woman: Oh, this? It’s a computer manual. It’s difficult.
男:ふーん。熱心だね。
Man: Really? You’re keen, aren’t you?
女:ええ、何と一人で使えるようになりたいんです。
Woman: Yes, but I want to do something so that I can use the computer by myself.
男:ま、慣れるまでちょっと大変だよね。僕でよければ、いつでも教えてあげるよ。
Man: Yeah, it’s difficult until you get used to it, isn’t it? If you like, I can give you a hand.
女:えっ、いいんですかぁ?よろしくお願いします。
Woman: Really, would that be alright? That would be great!
男:そうだ。あれ、読んだ?『涙なしのぱそこん』。
Man: Sure. Have you read “Computers Without Tears”?
女:いえ、読んでません。
Woman: No, I haven’t read it.
男:じゃあ、『パソコンのすすめ』は?
Man: Well, how about “Computer Advice”?
女:すみません、読んでません。
Woman: Sorry, I haven’t read that either.
男:何もあやまることはないさ。でもさ、そのマニュアル10回読むよりきっとよくわらるよ。
Man: You don’t need to apologise. But, reading those is certainly better than reading the manual ten times.
女:そうですか。わたし、本って雑誌か恋愛小説ぐらいか読まないから。
Woman: Is that right? I read nothing but magazines and romance novels.
男:ははは。大丈夫。どっちも絵がたくさんあって、わかりやすいから。じゃあ、あした持ってきてあげるよ。
Man: Haha. That’s OK. Whichever one has the most pictures will be easier to understand. Well, I’ll bring them for you tomorrow.
女:はい、ありがとうがざいます。読んでみます。
Woman: Thank you very much. I’ll try to read them.

(emphasis mine)

If you’re interested, the question was:

What kind of books is the woman going to start reading from now on?

1) Computer manuals
2) Computer handbooks
3) Magazines
4) Romance novels

I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to work out how the script could have been trivially rewritten so as to not be offensive to half the people taking the test. It annoyed me so much that it threw off my studying for the morning, and I had to come here instead.

Sexism – we’re soaking in it.

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