Proceeding Apace

Japanese class is proceeding apace.  It is going at a rather breakneck speed.  To be quite honest, if it hadn’t been for the fact that I’d studied ahead for a year, I’d be sunk.  Many students seem to be.  It’s been, what, four weeks now?  And we’ve already covered all of hiragana and are finishing up katakana now.

I don’t think all students are going to make it out of the class unscathed, to be honest.

I have noticed something odd, though.  I am able now to carry on simple conversations with Japanese speakers.  Nothing too complicated, and about half the time I can’t understand them until they slow down, but I am now able to carry on a conversation.  So that is absolutely a positive.  But that’s not the odd thing.  The odd thing is that whenever I speak to a Japanese person or practice Japanese with any intensity, for about two hours afterwards, whenever I say something in English, I’m also saying it in my head in Japanese.  There have been several times when I have almost (or have!) said “arigatou gozaimasu” to someone who has no idea what the heck I’m talking about.  I’m not sure if it’s cool or frustrating, but it’s very much unexpected.

I guess that’s good practice, in an odd way.

Hiragana isn’t that hard.  Katakana is a little harder.  Switching between them is hella difficult – I have to really think about it when switching between writing systems (when taking a quiz, etc).  Grammar isn’t that hard, but constructing the grammar from whole cloth on the fly is really difficult.  I need to find an effective way to practice.  There is a tutor over at the Northridge campus, I’m going to impose on some of his time for conversation.

Onwards and upwards!

Japanese class – second day

Today was the second day of the Japanese class, and we hit the ground running.

Most of the practice I’m going to need to do over the next few days is writing.  I need to practice writing some of the hiragana, even though I can recognize almost all of them by sight.  I can’t really write them.  So it’s good practice and I don’t mind doing it.  The rest of the stuff is really easy – or more accurately, stuff I already learned – so it’s really not going to be too much of a big deal to learn it.  It took me months to get this head start, but I’m rather glad I did.  I wonder if I should try to keep it.

I did embarrass myself a little in the class though.  The embarrassment was mostly centered around the fact that I heard a few variants in how sensei was pronouncing the words, and I wanted to make sure that I was hearing it right, or if we had to emulate her.  On balance, I probably shouldn’t have said it, but whatever, what’s done is done.  I kept quiet on quite a few other things, though, and I was right to keep quiet.  I decided from the very beginning that I wasn’t going to parade what little I know around, and I’ve been keeping to that – although I’ve also decided to say whatever I can in Japanese, and that is a bit more than most people in the class can say.  But that’s kinda the point of Japanese class, so I’m okay with that.  Several times today I heard “I have no idea what that means”, but they will.  I’m still caught off guard when sensei switches to Japanese without warning, so it’s not like I’m that far ahead.

But today was better than Friday.  I don’t think I’ve dealt with the underlying issues I was dealing with, but at least it’s tolerable now.  So there’s that.  Off to vacation!

Japanese Class: 1st day.

Today was the first day of Japanese class at Austin Community College.  For many reasons, I will avoid any mention of the other people in the class, other than to say there were other people in the class of varying ages, backgrounds and knowledge of Japanese.  As expected.

As for me, it is clear that there are gaping holes in my knowledge.  In my “introduction” (which I absolutely, positively, did not want to do) I said that I “know enough to be dangerous” – and I feel that more strongly now than when I began the class.  In some ways, I feel handicapped by the fact that we’re using romaji instead of hiragana and kanji, but in other ways, there are things I’m learning even now, and the holes are obvious.  I learned the mechanics of Japanese, but not how to think in it, or more accurately, not how to think on my feet.  I will have significant challenges in this class – but they’re not the challenges that most of the other students will have.  I will have little problem with grammar.  I will have little problem with kana.  I will have some problem with vocabulary.  I will have a huge problem with the fact that speaking to other people is a requirement.

Which leads to the obvious question:  Why, then, oh glorious blogger, did you decide to study a foreign language when the last thing in the world you want to do is actually use it?

That, dear readers, will have to be a mystery, I suppose.  Even to me.