The influence of altitude on English speaking capabilities
I had to move to a new apartment, which involves lot’s of work and paperwork, especially in Japan. And, as usual for a foreigner without a knowledge of the language in any way close to acceptable, each of those is a challenge and may turn into an adventure. One of the tasks involves de-registering yourself in the office of the city you were living in and registering in the new one. The secretary in my work called the Nerima-ku office and asked if the registration can be performed in English. The answer was positive. So I arrived at the hall, quickly sought out the information desk, showed to the woman an explanation what I should do, written in Japanese by the secretary, just in case. It was not necessary, for the registration desk person spoke quite good English. So I received a map of the building and was pointed where to go to the second floor to register and then where to on the third floor to change my health insurance data.
After a moment of awkward struggle at the first floor, I was pointed to the machine from which I had to take the number for the queue and the proper desk. I was the only one waiting so it went quickly. The woman that received my form and a gaijin card gave me those simple instructions in understandable English, although she asked if I spoke Japanese. The level of English at the second floor was definitely worse than on the first floor in the reception, but enough for the task that I had to do.
So I walked to the third floor. The universal method of a looking-lost-gaijin worked again and I was quickly intercepted, this time by a man. I don’t even remember, if he asked if I spoke English. Probably not, because at some point our conversation turned into a literature-based one. I thought that I knew the Japanese word for “tax”, but somehow I heard “import” and could not figure out what “import” has to do with a health insurance, but it occurred to be tax in a bilingual manual for the new dwellers of Nerima-ku.
The last person did not speak a word in English, the second one spoke a little, the first one spoke quite well. So in this case the language capabilities dropped with the altitude above ground. Not enough points to tell if it was linear dependence or not. I should visit other city halls and find out if it is some kind of a universal law, or maybe just my luck. I can only hope, that I did not have to pay my insurance until last week - I thought that I understood something like that, but decided that if I will have to pay, I should receive something by mail. In the worst case I will receive by mail a… fine.