I’d just arrived in Japan and was meeting my host family for the first time. After I’d introduced myself, and they’d introduced themselves, we fell into an awkward silence.
It seemed my Japanese was as bad as their English, and we were struggling to find something to say.
Suddenly their dog ran into the room. It was a Shiba Inu. These are small Japanese dogs that are pretty common over there but I’d never seen one before.
“Oh, wow! What kind of dog is that?” I asked, leaping at the chance to make some small talk.
My host mother looked confused and said “Wakarimasen” (Japanese for “I don’t understand”). It seemed they didn’t know the word kind”.
Luckily they had an English to Japanese dictionary and looked it up. Unfortunately it was a concise edition and only had one definition; kind in the sense of kindness.
“Hmmm no…” I said, “What type of dog?”
Again the concise dictionary failed us, giving only type as in typing and my host family started miming keyboards.
Trying again I pointed at the dog and said, “Um…breed?”
They looked it up in the dictionary.
Suddenly they looked shocked.
“With the dog?!”