A Revelation Over Dinner

I was out for dinner with a friend, and she had a handout from one of her English classes. It focused on essay-writing, and why English-speakers often have a hard time following Japanese writing, even when the translation is spot-on from sentence to sentence. Further study of this is probably in order for me, but fundamentally, a common Japanese essay form has a component called the ten, which can best be explained as a sub-theme introduced right before the conclusion with no immediately apparent connection to anything at all. Well, that certainly explains a lot.

Okay, I may be over-simplifying a bit, but not by much. This guide introduced concepts such as "make it clear how each point relates to your theme" as utterly foriegn, and urged the reader to try to use them even if they seemed odd. It explained that while Japanese writing and rhetoric holds the reader/listener responsible for deciphering bimyou/aimai *(ambiguous) passages or points, American rhetoric places that responsibility on the author. Apparently the Japanese rarely do drafts or rewrites. Japanese essays do tend to tie the *ten *back into the main theme in the conclusion, and the guide recommends that if students have a *ten, that they preface it with a request to forgive abrupt transition in theme, and have faith that it will be clarified in the conclusion. In my experience, however, "clarified" is pretty generous; I haven't run into much rhetorical writing that would pass your usual American tests for arguments or logic.

I wish I could get away with that in college.