2016/12/09 When you understand English as English

Have you ever met or heard about Japanese people who "understand English as English?" I have. 

I don't mean to discuss the vexed problem: What is it to understand meanings? Rather, here I want to talk about those people who say they understand English as English.

I asked one of them, after reading an English sentence, to explain the meaning in Japanese. Then, he said, "I can't, but I understand it as English." At first, I suspect that in fact they don't even understand it. But on second thoughts, I reached a conclusion that failure to explain the meaning is no proof of failure in understanding it.

But, turning the suspicious eyes to myself, I sometimes appear to understand English the same way as they say they do. In those cases, I force myself to explain the meaning of it in Japanese. Then, what most often comes from my lips is this expression:「〜すること」or「〜であること」

This way of explanation proves that I understand the meaning in a most abstract way.  If the original expression is so abstract, there is no problem. But there are often cases where the original is about more concrete things or affairs. This type of failure is caused by skipping through articles or s's that denote plurality. This realization helps me return on the right track. It can be said that when you seem to "understand English as English," it is at least helpful to ask yourself whether you can put it into Japanese. For that challenge often reveals on what point you misunderstand it.