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OHAYO Bom dia

Chapter 13: Do You Speak Nisei Language?

When I was a student, we had an interesting kid in our class.

She was Japanese Brazilian, and spoke mostly Japanese at home.

Even though 90% of the class was Brazilian, she had no hesitation about using Japanese words.

Anta, estudou para a prova?” (Did anta study for the test?)

[Editor’s note: “Anta” is the Japanese word for “you”.]

 “Eu não entendi direito ano lição.” (I didn’t really understand ano lesson.)

[Editor’s note: “ano” is the Japanese word for “that”.]

It sounded weird at first, but the classmates just naturally accepted her. And because of her, recess became even more lively and fun.

Even now, I unconsciously smile every time I hear the word “anta.” Ah…I wonder what Elena is up to now. Does she have a family…a husband and kids she’s always saying “anta” to? Oh, the memories…

There’s also a Nisei language for Japanese food.

I have a friend who emigrated to Japan to work and lived there 10 years. He said, “The thing I found to be delicious in Japan was shuriko.”

I’ve never heard of shuriko. What is it?

“The thing with mochi in sweet bean paste.”

Oh…you mean oshiruko!

At a Japanese-Brazilian party, a man said in a loud voice, “Does anyone want shashimi? It’s the best.”  Everyone started screaming, “Shashimi? I do, I do.” Sashimi is very popular.

At the morning market, a housewife was asking, “How much for this kabochan?” I was standing next to her, and as she selected the kabocha (pumpkin), she proudly told me, “I’m learning Japanese from my mother-in-law.”

As I was walking around the Asian area of São Paulo, a woman came up to me and asked, “Obasan (middle-aged lady), do you want some manju?” Obasan? She looked way older than me…Her basket was filled with packets of manju. I was a little perturbed, but I said, “OK, I’ll take one.” 

When I stopped in front of a fish shop, a young man in tan dreadlocks asked me, “Baachan (old lady), you want some fish?”

Baachan?!

Now that really ticked me off!

© 2011 Laura Honda-Hasegawa

Brazil identity language nisei

About this series

My grandfather immigrated to Brazil from Japan about 100 years ago, and I was born in Brazil. That is why I strive to become a ‘bridge’ between Brazil and Japan. I treasure the ‘Japan’ rooted deep in my heart, and I want to keep that part of me protected in my homeland of Brazil. This series was composed with those feelings in mind. (“Bom Dia” is “Good morning” in Portuguese)