In my basic Japanese language class, the teacher required the class to make a very simple composition using the Nihongo that we have learned so far. We were asked to read our work in front of the class.
The topic was, “When I was young, I wanted to be . . .”.
Translated into English, my composition went like this:
When I was in elementary school, I wanted to be a teacher.
When I was in secondary school, I wanted to become an artist. I drew pictures. I made decorative crafts. And I wrote novellas.
But when I was in college, I wanted to join a revolution and be like Che Guevara.
Now, I just want to be a Buddha.
After reading my sentences, I peeked at my teacher who was standing by the side of the room. I waited for her comments and corrections. For a moment, she did not say a word. Then she smiled a very sweet smile.
I guess she liked my composition . . ..
As I went back to my seat, two South Asian classmates, stared at me. The one from India, his eyes, dark, deeply expressive, appeared very perplexed. The one from Nepal, his eyes, light brown, intense, also appeared very perplexed.
I was confused.
They both asked, “Did you say you wanted to be a Buddha? Or was it buta?
I said, I want to be a Buddha.
They then corrected me by saying that I should stress the double ‘d’ in Buddha. Otherwise, it sounded like I said ‘buta’ – which means ‘pig’ in Japanese.
The class was in Japanese language, but I had a simultaneous lesson in learning how to correctly pronounce a South Asian word!