A couple people asked me how the kids and Tetsu do Chat. It is a little complicated but we manage.
We have two computers in our house. The old one rarely gets used because the screen is going bad but we can't toss it because it is the only one that Tetsu can operate. Whereas any computer can be modified to write Japanese printing (don't ask me how... Takumi did it for me, but Leiya's host family managed to fairly simply download something that allowed Leiya to write in Japanese too) our old computer has a keyboard with Japanese characters on it.
Usually Japanese will type in the Romanized alphabet version of Japanese (they can just look at an English keyboard and just type letters) and by hitting the Space tab, the Romanized letters will change to Japanese.
Japanese Word automatically will switch to a simple Japanese character when I input a letter.
The underline there will let me know that those simple characters (called Hiragana) can be further changed into Chinese characters. 渡邊
And the black around those characters lets me know that I have numerous choices of Chinese characters that I might use so if I continue to hit the Space button, Word will give me choices until I select the correct set of characters and hit Enter.
It's the second one that I want... 渡辺
Actually we are far from the question of how Tetsu and the kids and I communicate.
The kids can write an e-mail to us using either Japanese or English. Both the computers in our house can accept both languages. BUT if Tetsu wants to write an e-mail to the kids he has to go to the old computer because he is dependent on the Japanese keyboard. (Or he asks me to transcribe for him on mine.) He has never learned the Romanized way of touch typing.
If we are on Chat (MSN) which we are only registered with MY computer, then we can both read whatever language is being written by the kids. They know enough to write in English when they are chatting with me and to write in Japanese when they are chatting with Tetsu. Sometimes both languages and characters get used in the same sentence.
Nowadays we also have Visual and Voice Chat which means we can see each other and just talk over the computer, no typing involved. This works best when both Tetsu and I are around because we all go into Japanese and Tetsu and I don't have to worry about reading or writing or transcribing or translating any language. Occasionally Leiya will type some message in English that she doesn't want Tetsu to know about,
"I sent Tetsu-san a Father's Day card at his office. Let me know when it arrives."
but Voice Chat and Visual Chat work best for us. (Unfortunately only Takumi and I have cameras on our computers... We never get to see Leiya.)
The Japanese language is extremely complicated with all the Japanese and Chinese and Romanized characters and letters going around. Japanese Word DOES make it all easier. I would never be able to write Japanese at all if it weren't for the computer but this way I only have to choose which character I need (they all mean something different even if they sound the same!!!) and after 30 years my Japanese READING ability is about jr. high level. WRITING? Put me back in 1st grade.
Tetsu and the kids' and my lives are really enriched by the computer world and thanks to technology it never seems as if we live on opposite sides of the world!
So that's the long round about explanation of how our family communicates. Now... I wonder if those Japanese and Chinese characters are going to show up on this blog anyway... Can you see them or are they disappearing into scribbles?