Students of Japanese are often Japanese-as-a-second-language (JSL) cavemen. JSL cavemen live a mostly pleasant existence of blissful ignorance, using a devolved form of the language as best they can. However, JSL cavemen are not total ignoramuses — their thick hide can be penetrated by awkward social encounters, notably by laughter.

The first time I went to Japan, I was a JSL caveman, and I was interning at a propeller company in Okayama. I did market research for the company’s ceramics division, which used propeller design software to make luxury ceramic lighting for new houses (which seems very Japanese somehow).

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