Umm… Merry Christmas, I guess. I’m not huge on Christmas but it’s a day off, so yay.
So I’ve been thinking a little more on Japanese, its role in culture, and its role in my life.
I’ve been thinking about what Japanese is, in my culture. I’ve been thinking about otaku and weeaboo, and why I collect Japanese language books and manga. I’ve come to the general conclusion that Japanese culture in America is really only tangentially related to Japan, in the same way that American culture in Japan is only tangentially related to America.
For us in America, we seem to take Japanese culture as kind of a rallying point, that we build our own community around. If it actually has something to do with Japan and Japanese culture, so much the better. Often it doesn’t, though, and generally we’re either okay with that, or ignorant of it.
I’ve posted before about how I have a majime personality. I take things seriously, in the same way that Okada Nana (of AKB48 “fame”) does. When I’m involved in something, I treat it professionally. I don’t really have fun with it. I have a purpose for doing it, and by gum, I’m going to accomplish it, and I don’t at all respect people who don’t treat it the same way.
Which is a long way of saying I don’t particularly respect people, I suppose.
So one reason that I’ve had such bad luck with Japanese is that I’ve actively refused to join the community that we Americans have built around Japanese culture, that really has very little to do with Japan or Japanese culture itself, but I’ve also actively refused to have much to do with the Japanese community themselves. I think that is mostly because I sense the distaste they have for Americans who generally don’t have a whole lot of respect for their culture, and have instead built a culture that is almost but not entirely related to actual Japanese culture.
It’s a conundrum, and a difficult one. I honestly don’t know how to solve it.
But I’ve already invested a great deal of time, effort, and money into learning Japanese. While this is almost certainly an exercise of the “sunk cost fallacy”, I’m not inclined to have all that go to waste.
So I will continue learning Japanese. Now that I understand my motivation, the (general) motivations of others, and why the interplay between American, otaku, and Japanese cultures are so different to navigate, I think I can craft a way forward.
I think one of the major difficulties I’ve had with learning Japanese structurally is that I actually do have experience with learning languages, and I actually already know how to learn new languages. I am a computer engineer. I have coded in quite a few different languages, and become fluent in quite a few different computer languages over my 25 or so years in the industry. And I have never, ever been able to learn a computer language by studying it. It has always been a “learn by doing” kind of thing. By which I mean, I find a project I want to do, and start writing a program. By the time I’m done, I’m much better at that language than I was when I started. That applied to Java, C++, Go, Python, Php, Perl, ALL of those languages. Sometimes I’d be asked to take a course in those languages and I was bored to utter tears. But give me a project and I’d become really good, really fast.
I think the same thing applies to Japanese.
So I think over the next week, some projects will be coming out along this vein. I’m going to try to use Japanese practically, even though I’m terrible at it. That is really the only way I’m going to succeed.
Anyway that’s my Christmas day ramble. I hope you all have a good Christmas. And for those of you in Japan, I hope the KFC was delicious.