Nov 25, 2018

Mistranslation Messes with Music School

Yesterday was hard, for so many little reasons.

Mostly it's Saturday stuff: teaching all morning, walking across town, and going to my daughter's music class.

My kid has been going to these classes since she was 2 years old. She's five now. Usually our experience is pretty mundane but sometimes I get lost in the Japanese. The class itself used to be a huge source of stress for me, but it has gotten better as they have started actually playing instruments and my kid has become more fluent. Yesterday, the problem was about the upcoming Christmas Concert, for which we needed to have paid a fee I didn't know about by the 20th. This would be why, last week, one of the other mothers asked my why my daughter wasn't on the list of kids performing.

This was also a mom who doesn't get anything about foreign languages or living outside of your mother tongue, so when I have previously mentioned that I didn't get something she said, she has become flustered and made it clear that she is speaking the only way she knows how, i.e. with complete unwillingness to rephrase something for a non-native speaker.

So I told her that I hadn't heard about it, or as close as I could say, and spent the next few days tearing through my daughter's music bag and looking at every single form until finally I was satisfied that I had not seen anything about Christmas and decided I would inquire on the next class day, which in this case got me a fast-paced lecture, of which the gist was "Your kid could try next year I guess..." though the only words I actually understood were: friend, try, again, no, next year.

I told her I had not heard about it, and she said my husband knew about it, which seemed like a cop out to me. When did she tell my husband? When could that even have happened?

Between my daughter getting sick sometimes and missing classes, the main teacher being out for a few months for her own hospitalization, and the teacher who substituted for a month of lessons and spoke so quickly I had no chance of understanding more than half of what she was saying, I really don't know when they handed out this form. My best guess is that they handed it out on a day when my kid was sick and then had the fast-talking substitute mention it last month when I had no chance of understanding it. Either that or the regular teacher said it and I didn't catch it either. In both of these cases, it's just me being too stupid to know all of the things and my daughter missing out on the Christmas concert because of it.

It was my birthday, to boot, and I had planned on making cupcakes with my daughter but after that disappointment, I didn't have the energy to do any of that. We went home and my daughter says it's okay and she doesn't mind not doing the Christmas concert, which is good but doesn't make me feel like less of a horrible parent.

I talked to my husband when he got home, and he said that they could have told him in passing after class and he just didn't think about it again. I still have no idea what class that would have been after but they had had to call him to tell him about the substitute teacher, so it could have been then, but who knows.

The point is my kid isn't getting to play in the concert, either due to my own lack of fluency or due to my husband's forgetfulness or both.

In any case, I am feeling less and less like music class is something we need to do and I am looking forward to the day that I can hand this job off to my mother-in-law or quit the school entirely.

I obviously don't belong there.



A working mom/writer/teacher, Jessica explores her surroundings in Miyagi-ken and Tohoku, enjoying the fun, quirky, and family friendly options the area has to offer.


  • Saitama

    on Nov 25

    I'm so annoyed for you. This is not the way it should be. My kids go to music class too and our experience is very different. The teacher always ensures I know what's going on and always double checks that we will / will not participate in an event. Actually last night we completely forgot to a group practise for our christmas concert so my husband rang earlier to apologise and the teacher was so nice about it. Normally she'd ring us when we forget to turn up, which happens a bit more than it should, but she didn't ring us last night and apologised for that - she figured we'd forgotten and as it wasn't essential we were there, she let it slide. I am sorry that they stonewalled you and that your daughter won't get to participate, but I think the blame lies with the teacher or the substitute teacher. They could have checked with you and they could have let you join FOUR short days after the deadline, I know our teacher would have. :-(

  • JTsuzuki

    on Nov 26

    @Saitama I am glad to know that your music school is better with you guys than this one is with me. It's always been a challenge and they really don't want me there or don't care if we're there. I wish there were more opportunities for music classes for my kid here. I might start looking around. Thanks!

  • KevinC

    on Nov 26

    The teacher should have confirmed the participation of the event, not just assuming people will not attend. Especially for Christmas concert! If they take away the chance for the kids to have fun because they didn't receive a fee, maybe it is time to move on. Men are forgetful, please forgive us :P

  • edthethe

    on Nov 26

    I feel your pain on this one. Number one thing is to not beat yourself up about this. Not understanding the language is one thing, but basically picking on a kid for one possible misunderstanding (more likely its just the teachers not wanting to put any extra effort in making sure you knew what was going on) sounds to me like this school isn't worth the effort, especially if they aren't putting any effort into your child. I am guessing you are paying a pretty good price for this music school? We had a similar experience with my daughters and the basketball team. They basically kicked my girls off the team because I couldn't walk my pregnant self 2 km to lock the door for them after practice. Mind you it wasn't a serious team and they never had matches, but my girls enjoyed playing with the other kids. I hope things get better, but they really need to have more understanding of your plight, not just blame it on the husband who may or may not have been told.

  • JTsuzuki

    on Nov 27

    @KevinC I think you're right. And this grand fee we missed? 500 yen. My kid is screwed out of this for 1 coin.

  • JTsuzuki

    on Nov 27

    @edthethe I agree. I didn't get the impression from our previous conversations that they really just could not give a hang, but that's all I get from this. It is possible that they chose to tell my husband and not me, which on its own is not a great idea, but easier for them because they don't have to talk to the foreign woman. If talking to the foreign woman is so hard, they really shouldn't have to do it any more. I'd rather burn all my energy every Saturday taking a train ride into Sendai for classes if it meant someone talked to me like a person.