On my recent trip to Japan I was lucky enough to work with interpreter Tomoko Yokoyama. She was truly incredible, catching every dumb thing I said and translating it back at the speed of light.
She sent me this today, and with her permission I’m posting it. Priceless.
I noticed during your lecture that you were wondering why the audience did not laugh at the term “geek” when you said you became “a choir geek” on your way back from the very first rehearsal with your University Choir. Then you asked me if there was a Japanese word for “geek.” And I said yes. This word is typically translated into either one of two words, “マニア (ma-ni-a)” or “オタク (o-ta-ku).” I used “マニア (ma-ni-a),” because it is a slang word in Japanese for “somebody who is extremely (or excessively) knowledgeable about some specific area.” Some people may translate “geek” into “オタク (o-ta-ku),” but this one is a slang word for “somebody who is a geek AND lacks social skills.” My understanding is that “geeks” can be social. Therefore, I personally think “geek” should be translated into “マニア (ma-ni-a)” and “nerd” into “オタク (o-ta-ku).” When you used “geek” in the context, you were talking about yourself, and I definitely believe you are a choir geek but not a nerd.
So, I also wondered why nobody laughed. Then I thought, “Maybe they did not want to laugh, because they are well aware that they are geeks and are already ashamed of it.” But my husband –he was among the audience—later told me that he thought of the opposite reason. That those chorus geeks in the room were not at all aware that they are rather quite geeky! You don’t realize who you are if you only belonged to one community.
There was another interesting comment by my husband. He said that he felt really strange in the lecture room. “Because,” he said, “I normally feel I am with the majority and that those choral geeks are less than 1% of the general public. But in that room, 99% were choral geeks. It was so strange to realize that I was on the 1% side.”
The closing concert was a great inspiration for me. I often find choir concerts to be boring especially when choirs with great techniques perform not-so-lively music. But that evening concert was so full of positive energy and liveliness. I realized that choir geeks can bring unbelievable energy when they unite.
On behalf of choir geeks everywhere we thank you, Tomoko!