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Restarting Japanese – and More

I really liked the format of my last post. The use of separators gave it a flow that I haven’t yet been able to achieve in any other way, and I intend on continuing to do that.

The other day, the smoke alarms in an apartment in my building started going off for no reason. I left my building and wandered around until I actually found the apartment in which they were going off. I found it, and the apartment was inhabited by a Mexican grandma-type – older lady, very flustered and confused. I don’t know if she thought I was maintenance, but I used what little Spanish I know to ask if there was a fire. She said no, but wasn’t sure what to do. She speaks absolutely no English. I used Google Translate to communicate with her (that’s really an amazing tool – it’s not perfect but it’s better than using gestures) and I figured out that one of the four smoke alarms in her apartment had gone on the fritz. Since my apartment has a nearly identical layout, I was able to find the breaker, power it down, and then take the battery out of the offending smoke alarm.

Blessed silence.

I went back to my apartment, and said to myself, “I really need to learn Spanish”.

Quite honestly, I do believe that people should know some English to live here. But that ship has sailed, and flown over the southern border.

I don’t honestly know why I started to learn Japanese. I’ve said that on this blog repeatedly. I don’t really regret doing it, but in my area of the country, there are very few Japanese people, and the Japanese people I meet online seriously seem to hate me for some reason. Maybe it’s me, maybe it’s them, but that’s not material. I have yet to meet a Japanese person that will even give me the time of day. So learning Japanese has been such an exercise in frustration that, for a while, I just stopped. It wasn’t worth it to me. I’m still not sure that it is.

But it is an interesting language to learn. It’s about as opposite to English as you can possibly get. Even Chinese, though it’s logographically and phonetically more complex, is more similar to English grammar than Japanese is. It’s got all of these interesting designs and patterns that make sense, until they don’t, and quite frankly, it’s a really good conversation starter – or stopper, depending, I guess. Since Japanese has a reputation as a difficult language, any skill with it at all speaks a lot for my intelligence when I am interacting with people I don’t know. You never know when that will come in handy.

One thing that I have noticed, though, is that there are a lot of Koreans where I live. Korean isn’t really as interesting a language, and I’m quite frankly not as interested in the Korean culture. J-pop is interesting, K-pop is mostly boring. But considering where I live, it’s a far more practical language. And it’s not nearly as difficult as Japanese. I’ve already learned the hard, mindset stuff in Japanese (Korean is also subject-object-verb) and their writing system is infinitely more logical and less complex (Japanese folks, you can’t deny that your language is messed up in some ways). So learning Korean would really be just a matter of learning the phonetics, hangul, and then just picking up vocabulary and expressions that are not similar to Japanese. Compared to Japanese, it will probably be loads simpler, and far more useful to boot.

So, it looks like I am learning three languages, and not just one.

I haven’t decided how that will affect this blog. Probably not much for the short term, as I need to figure out how to even start. Spanish is probably the simplest – they have conjugations for everything, but there are many resources here, and I am sure I will have no end of opportunities to practice – and I don’t have to learn a new alphabet and very few new phonetics. I will have to put some effort into Korean, but it is basically just finding the right resources and slogging through it. Japanese will continue to be a focus, but as one of the languages I’m learning, rather than the only language I’m learning.

So I will still be a Gaijin learning Japanese.

What I may end up doing – and I haven’t decided yet! – is creating different categories on this blog and a different front-facing blog for each language. But first I have to finish the move, and, well, yeah. Good luck to me on that.

Honestly, the most difficult thing will probably be not mixing them up. I know “si” is how you say “yes” in Spanish. I kept saying “hai” when talking to the Mexican lady. That won’t get easier.

Once more into the breach…

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Interesting. When I was in high school I didn’t really like learning Spanish. During my senior year they brought another language to the school curriculum: Chinese. Unfortunately, she was only there to teach that one year.

Thinking “I need to learn Spanish” happened to me when I was working at a theatre. One of the team leaders spoke mostly Spanish so it was hard to follow her orders at time.

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