Offbeat learning aid has Japanese travelers cracking up even before the aliens makes their appearance.
I’ve always been of the mindset that the more mentally engaged you are with the material you’re studying, the more likely you are to retain it. Learning foreign languages presents a difficult problem, though, in that early on your limited vocabulary tends to restrict the situations your textbook can portray, which often results in repetitive sample dialogues.
Still, with enough effort and creativity you can piece together even very simple words and phrases to craft conversations that are unorthodox enough to stick in your memory. Just ask my college Japanese teachers who my classmates and I presented with skits about illegal elephant smuggling or the best way for a father to remind his son about the dangers of sleeping around without using protection.
Because of that, I can sort of admire what this textbook for beginning learners of Japanese, found in Australia by Japanese Twitter user @mmn_k912 and her friend, is trying to accomplish.
ももの (@mmn_k912) March 10, 2016
The pages shown feature illustrated exchanges between a child named Tensei and his classmates. You might notice that while the other children have full heads of hair, Tensei looks like he could be Charlie Brown’s stunt double, and that whether at school or in bed always wears the same T-shirt with SPORT (singular) emblazoned across the chest. These are by far the least unusual aspects of the character, though.
Let’s look in on what Tensei and his friends are talking about.
▼ Tensei: “This bento boxed lunch sure tastes bad.”
Classmates: “These bento sure taste good.”
▼ “It’s horrible!”
▼ “Tensei-san, what is your favorite food?”
“My favorite food…”
▼ “Roses are delicious.”
Thanks to this unexpected twist, the comic has managed to use bara (written as ばら), the Japanese for “rose,” seven times in a way that’s sure to leave an impression. The artist also responsibly shows that the proper way to eat roses is sort of like picking the meat off of ribs; you should eat the mouth-watering petals, but leave the thorns behind.
Let’s see what other antics Tensei gets up to in the textbook.
▼ “Tensei, where are you going to go?”
“I’m going to go to the mountain.”
▼ “Who are you going to go with?”
“I’m going to go with the dog.”
▼ “Please wait!”
“Shall we go together?”
▼ “Where is Tensei going to go?”
“Let’s go together!”
Wow, Tensei is kind of a jerk, isn’t he? I mean, why doesn’t he want the other kids to come along–
Oh, of course. Because aliens were coming. And now we’ve learned ikimasu (“go,” written いきます) and ikimashou (“let’s go,” written いきましょう).
Still, Tensei’s choice of hiking companion begs a question: Why did he bother to take the dog along if he knew he was going to be abducted by extraterrestrials? It turns out, though, that Tensei has a special affinity with man’s best friend.
▼ “Tensei-kun, what time are you going to go to sleep at?”
“I…will go to sleep at 12 o’clock.”
“12 o’clock?! That’s so late!”
Going to bed at midnight, though, means that Tensei has just enough time for a midnight snack, which in his case is naturally…
After a satisfied pre-slumber burp, Tensei falls asleep, and in the morning is woken by either his mother or a caretaker, who in either case is too creeped out by his behavior to look him in the eye.
▼ “Tensei-kun, what are you going to do today?”
▼ “Today…I am going to play with the dog.”
We’re not sure that constitutes playing, just like we’re not entirely sure what the target vocabulary is for this page. Still, Tensei definitely has our brains up and running as we try to figure out what he’s going to do next, and why on earth he’s doing it.