Let’s talk spelling. It’s tough being an English English speaker in Japan. Thanks to America’s supreme cultural dominance, the default form of English words in Japan are the American spellings. The wrong spellings.
America’s continual angsty, adolescent attempts to proclaim its rebellious streak against England via spelling are bad news waiting to happen. Japan is like the kid who only half-willingly agrees to go and smoke cigarettes and read the dictionary with America behind the international bike sheds. How is it to know any better that ‘defence’ should really have a ‘c’, not an ‘s’? America swaggers around spelling ‘centre’ as ‘center’ in a less French-looking, more incorrect way, devil-may-care. Japan’s obviously been led on to the wrong side of the tracks, but it’s a good kid, deep down. It’s the Ponyboy of the international schoolyard.
I want to help.
Although I work in a Japanese office, I often write reports and presentations for international audiences. I’m one of the only native English speakers in the office, and I often need to get a Japanese coworker to proof my work for technical accuracy and silly typing mistakes. It saddens me that conversations like this need to occur:
“I think you spelled this word wrong.”, says my sincerely helpful co-worker.
“Oh, which word?”
“It’s not a big mistake, but it looks like you made a typo in color.”
“No… that spelling is correct. I’m pretty sure I know how to spell colour.”
“Then what is this extra ‘u’ doing in here?”
“Ah, that’s the Queen’s English”, I say, smiling.
“Is that how she spells color?”
“In a manner of speaking, yes. America is wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.”
“But why would you want to type an extra letter when you don’t have to?”
“Well, that’s just correct, you see. You can’t just drop the ‘k’ out of ‘kick’ because it’s seemingly unnecessary.”
“But all the programming languages I know use ‘color’. Lots of international specifications use ‘color’ too.”
“Well, they’re wrong too, but it’s too late now. Anyway, the important thing is that I’m right.”
“Okay. You’re the native speaker.”
“Oh, but you’ve made another mistake. I think ‘visualise’ is spelled with a ‘z’.”
This has happened many times. The saddest thing is that to avoid problems such as this, I’ve given up on all that is right and pure. I’m beyond helping anyone. I just automatically Americanise Americanize my spelling. I run a US English spell checker. Each time my fingers automatically adorn my words with Anglo-friendly ‘u’s and ‘s’es, the tell-tale red underline comes up.
I don’t know what I’ve become. I tried to cross to the other side of the tracks to bring them back to the light, but I only got stuck there myself.
If you need me, I’ll be behind the bike sheds, sitting on my motorcycle. Of shame.