“When I can explain in beautiful and courteous Japanese, customers are pleased and say, ‘I’ll buy another one,’ or ‘Please help me next time, too.’ That makes me glad and gives me a sense of purpose; the more customers I’m put in charge of, the more my salary increases,” says Rukshona ESHPULATOVA. Rukhshona came to Japan in April 2013, and joined Somo Japan Inc. this January. She is in the car exporting business.
Rukhshona is from Uzbekistan, a country in Central Asia. When she was a child, she encountered Japanese tourists and became interested in Japan. Then she learned the Japanese language from Japanese teachers at the Samarkand College of Tourism. “There are a lot of tourist attractions in Samarkand. I took the teachers there and guided them in Japanese,” Rukhshona says, reflecting back.
However, she later enrolled at the Samarkand State Institute of Foreign Languages, which in those days did not have a Japanese studies department. Rukhshona studied in the English department and became a tour guide after graduating. “Because my major was English, I could not obtain the necessary qualification to become a Japanese-speaking guide. Before long I had forgotten Japanese,” she says regretfully.
Rukhshona thought of going to Japan to study the language once again. Her older brother who lived in the United States helped her out financially. “I watched online videos of the classes provided at the various language schools in Japan. Out of them, I thought that the Academy of Language Arts in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, was a good fit for me. Most importantly, the teachers are friendly and cheerful. In addition, they let the students speak a lot while incorporating information useful in everyday life. I thought that their teaching methods were good,” says Rukhshona.
Because prices in Japan are high, she had to start working part time as soon as she arrived. On weekdays, she would go to school from 9:30 am to 1:30 pm and then work afterwards at a restaurant until 11:00 pm. “Because I also worked on Saturdays and Sundays, I was very busy and it was tough. So I used to review the expressions that I learned during class at work the same day. In order to learn the words I did not know, I asked ‘kore wa nan desuka’ (what is this?) to my fellow part-timers,” Rukhshona laughs.
Rukhshona was brought up in an environment where Tajik, Uzbek, and Russian were used. “Because I studied Japanese and English after I grew up, I use Uzbek as a reference when I speak Japanese since the word order is similar. English is close to Russian, so I use Russian as reference when speaking in English,” says Rukhshona. “Also, when I used to do guide tours in English, I learned to check if I was speaking well by observing the reactions of the person I was addressing, as well as ways to control my uneasiness when speaking in a foreign language. This experience has now come in handy with my Japanese study.”
Currently, Rukhshona uses Japanese, English, and Russian for work. “I often explain things in Russian to customers as I read Japanese documents. English words written in katakana like ‘support’ and ‘inner panel’ were very difficult. However, as with difficult kanji, if I use it for work, I can remember it. Also, since I like talking, I love this job because I can talk to customers. I am very happy because I have a job that I love doing,” she smiles.
Text: SAZAKI Ryo
[From September Issue 2014]