"This sentence is very nice" --my head of group told me-- "But, if you use this sentence for some young boy, he might feel that you have very good impression about him and you want to feel him very close to you."
It was at that point I realised I'd flirted with the head of the Department of Physics.
I had been feeling MIGHTY pleased with myself. While it was true that my spoken language frequently failed to secure my first choice of beverage at Starbucks, my written Japanese was finally at the point where I could whine. Especially about faculty meetings.
This had several advantages.
Firstly, if you really want to vent your woes on twitter, Japanese is the droid you've been looking for. Since single Chinese characters can form entire words, Japanese allows you to transcribe half a Ghibli movie into a tweet, while the English counterpart involves trying to graze off 3 letters to fit in the title.
Composing single tweet masterpieces of all the ways I found faculty meetings stupid had become my new favourite pastime during the aforementioned events.
Also, no one likes a whiner, so it was much better I could vomit my frustration in a format only 10% of my feed could read that also improved my education.
The final use was that I could not only whine to my (largely obliviously, English speaking) twitter following, but also to our head of group. In theory, our group spoke English and I could use my mother tongue to express concerns. In practice, previous attempts had largely been met with lots of nodding heads and the response 'let's enjoy!'
This has caused many trees on campus to suffer verbal abuse at my hands.
After one particular faculty meeting of sitting through a stream of rapid Japanese, supported by Japanese slides, Japanese documents and a voting system in which I was still expected to participate, I designed my magnum opus. In both languages, I explained my difficulties and suggested that, since the department intended to hire two more foreign lecturers, a more bilingual system might be appropriate.
When our head of group asked me if he could directly forward my mail to the head of department, I celebrated at Starbucks. With the fourth latte I failed to get made with soy milk. Details.
The reply from our department head was friendly, apologetic and in English. A promise was made involving bilingual slides. Touched at this accommodation, I replied back in Japanese:
Thank you for your kind email.
That was when I learnt '優しい' (kind) would be better off written as 'ご親切な' (also kind, but apparently without the promise of nudity).
If I ever write saying I'm unexpectedly engaged, send a new phrase book.