I don't really need to know that much Japanese. Yes, I do travel to Japan. But when I go to Japan, I bring my own personal translator with me, my husband. Granted being able to survive in Japan and being to communicate are different. I would also like my children to continue speaking Japanese because
I do know how to say a few other things in Japanese. And I can understand more than I can say. But it doesn't always work as planned. This past spring my family and I went to Okinawa. We stayed at a beautiful hotel with a private beach. We decided to try the jet skis. We had to go two at a time. My 5 year old and I went first with the jet ski instructor. Then my husband and my 7 year old with the same jet ski instructor. My 5 year old and I waited on the beach while they took their 20 minute ride. Not more than 2 minutes had passed when my 5 year old turned to me and said, "I need to go potty." We were on the beach. There was no bathroom. The nearest building was where we paid for the jet skis and there was no bathroom there, but we could ask where the bathroom is. At this point I considered sending him into the ocean to go potty. But I quickly changed my mind. My 5 year has been going to Japanese school for 2 years. This is a resort where most employees speak English. Surely we could find a bathroom without the help of my usual translator.
My 5 year old and I walked up to the jet ski rental counter and I told my son to ask where the bathroom was. He wouldn't do it! He made me do it. So I asked. And the guy understood me! It would have been perfect if only I could have understood his answer. He pointed up a hill and toward a building. I went to the building. And then found a map with the bathroom located on the second floor. I later found out that the man at the jet ski counter said, "follow that path up the hill to the building and take the elevator to the second floor."
That reminds of another woman I met once who considered herself fluent in Japanese and was proven wrong by a little girl. This woman was a businesswoman. She worked in Japan and handled many contracts and meetings without any trouble. One day she was with some friends at the store. She was asked to watch one of her friend's little girl who was only about 3 years old. The little girl said something to the businesswoman. But the businesswoman did not understand the little girl. The businesswoman tried a few times to get the girl to speak more slowly and tried asking questions to figure out what the girl needed but in the end she ran out of time. The little girl had wet her pants. The little girl was saying that she needed to go "potty." She was using the child's word for "potty" as opposed to a more adult word like bathroom. So the woman did not understand. "Potty" is not in most textbooks and not used in most business meetings or contracts.
Just when you think you know it all a little girl can teach you something.