Rev. Otana (otana) wrote in linguaphiles,
Rev. Otana

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I found this article via the Japan Times, and thought everyone here would get a kick out of it.  While it is based on Japanese, I think it's hilariously appropriate for pretty much any language.

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What's your Hokey Pokey biography?

So, where are you from? How old are you? What are your hobbies? What do you like sports? How long stay Japan? Tired of answering questions? Really?

The Japanese long ago took care of the Q and A drilling among themselves with the canned jiko shokai, or self-introduction. If you travel with a large group of Japanese people, often there will be a chance for all to briefly introduce themselves in front of the group. You'll know everyone's name, age, hobbies and where they are from right off, so there is no need to ask these questions again.

I have a similar idea that would eliminate the gaijin FAQs. Couldn't we gaijin simply introduce ourselves to the entire country all at once? But then I got to thinking, why stop at the self introduction? Why not go for the whole biography?

You're probably thinking: OK, jiko shokai is easy enough to learn in Japanese, but an entire biography?

No problem. Any biography in English accompanied by enough visual aides will be understood by Japanese. Just be sure to make your bio interactive and use simple vocabulary familiar to everyone.

For example, since almost all Japanese people know the body parts in English, and they are also familiar with "The Hokey Pokey," you could do a Hokey Pokey biography. Every time you use the name of a body part, ask everyone to join in by touching or moving that body part.

Here's my Hokey Pokey Biography:

I am from Ohio, America's heartland (put hands over heart). Ohio is known for t he city of Cleveland, which was at one time considered the armpit (point to armpit) of the nation, and sits on a body (point to body) of water called Lake Erie, one of the five Great Lakes. But nowadays, Cleveland is a city with its finger on the pulse of life (put finger on your pulse).

Karaoke chorus - (everyone): You do the hokey pokey and you turn yourself around, that's what it's all about (clap, clap).

In school, I liked English and was near the head of my class (put your head in, put your head out . . . Continue every time you hear a body part mentioned). One reason I had a leg up on the other students was because I knew my grammar hands down.

I had a knack for words and was always armed with vocabulary and plenty of ideas. This I inherited from my father, who had a real funny bone and enjoyed tongue twisters. He was always pulling my leg too. In school, I got good grades but never brown-nosed the teacher. I couldn't stomach mathematics, however. As a matter of fact, I found it a pain in the neck.

In sixth grade, I was given the thumbsup on an essay I wrote, and my teacher submitted it to a famous magazine. But the magazine rejected it. My teacher told me to take heart. You have to have thick skin to be a writer. I felt a lump in my throat. My writing career was over. My brother and I caught the red-eye flight to Europe to do some traveling.

Shortly after I came back, my parents caught me necking with my boyfriend. Boy, did I get an earful from my father. It was a bit of a knee-jerk reaction, but they sent me to boarding school. I had always wanted to go to boarding school, so this move was really a joint venture.

I was a good pupil and thrived. I continued to write and some of my writings raised a few eyebrows. But I managed to graduate without any arch enemies. That summer, I had my eye on studying Spanish, so I went to Central America.

Karaoke chorus: You do the hokey pokey and you turn yourself around, that's what it's all about (clap, clap).

After high school came college where I put my nose to the grindstone and worked on my writing. I was never one to sit around idly jawing with my friends, so was soon up to my neck in my studies, living on kidney beans and elbow macaroni.

I continued to send out manuscripts to publishers and learned to fight tooth and nail and to not shed tears over rejections. After graduation, I spent a summer in South America to bone up on my Spanish.

When I came back, I entered graduate school to become an ESL teacher so I could travel and teach English to speakers of other languages. But I never gave up my dream of trying my hand at writing. After graduate school, I headed to Japan.

Here, I got my foot in the door writing.

So, why did you come to Japan?

E-mail me your Hokey Pokey biography at
Tags: japanese

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