When I ask directions in Japanese, people generally respond in kind. Occasionally, though, in tourist-heavy areas, I get a response in broken English. Now, there are times when the other person is actually trying to practice their English, but those people tend to say more and are much more earnest about it. The cases I mean are when — despite the fact that I’m asking in at least technically-correct Japanese — the person can’t get past the foreign face in front of them.
Case in point: I needed directions today, and spotted a woman busking for customers. I politely asked, “Excuse me, whereabouts is Doutonbori?”
Her response started out in Japanese, saying I should go straight and then turn left at a shoutengai. She suddenly finished with, “Wan sutoriito obaa, go!” (One street over, go.) I was baffled.
“… were you speaking English?” I asked.
“Oh, do you understand Japanese?” she asked in response.
“I’m speaking Japanese right now,*” I patiently countered.
The rest of the conversation continued largely free of English, but I still don’t understand why she felt the need to even try it. If I said it was the first or last time today that I asked a question in plain Japanese and got a response in broken English, I’d be lying.
* Since Japanese doesn’t require repeated pronouns, the sentence could have been interpreted as me saying “I’m speaking Japanese right now” or “We’re speaking Japanese right now.” Either way.