Immersive interactions are a critical part of learning Japanese. One that I'm reminded of just now, as I sit down to write, took place at a Yokohama craft beer bar more than 10 years ago, but it's still so vivid in my mind.

I was at the venue's anniversary party and the crowd was small enough that everyone made friends easily and talked with each other in small groups over the course of the night.

I was 26 at the time and there with a couple of young friends. We were talking with a few women in their early 40s. I don't remember the specific conversation, but my Japanese friend at one point in the conversation needed to ask the women what kind of work they did, so he paused for a moment, searching for the correct way to address them directly, and said, お姉さんたちはどんな仕事をしていますか (O-nēsan-tachi wa donna shigoto o shite imasu ka, What kind of work do you young women do)?