Three Months Later…

Posts like these are hard to write, because I never quite now how they’re quite going to turn out, and I never quite know how much of my soul I’m going to bare in the process.

About three months or so ago, I had a medical crisis that caused me to pretty much drop off the grid for two months.  Thankfully, I have good insurance and am in decent financial shape after having to take two months off of work, but many things in my life had to take a serious hit, and my Japanese study has been one of them.  I have been continuing to take classes after I was able to get stabilized enough to make it there, but that’s pretty much the only practice I’ve been doing.

I haven’t lost interest in the Japanese language, but after having taken a rather forced break from it for a couple of months, I no longer see it in the same way.  I can’t decide if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s just fact.

Japanese is pretty much everything English isn’t.  I think that’s a broad statement that I feel comfortable making.  Everything’s backwards in comparison to English.  The sentence structure is backwards.  We have twenty-six letters that come out to about fifteen thousand syllables.  They have about one hundred syllables and over 2,300 letters (I’m counting kanji as individual letters because, in my view, they are).  It’s not that it’s impossible to learn, it’s more that one’s thought patterns have to be almost completely wiped and all of one’s assumptions about what a language is or should be have to be put aside.  How many times in my lessons have I thrown up my hands in an only semi-joking manner and said something like “well, of course that compound word is pronounced differently and means something differently even though it’s written the exact same way depending on where and how it’s used!  It’s JAPANESE!”.

My sensei laughs, because even though she’s native Japanese, she gets it.  Every time you try to pull the language apart into its components so you can put it back again, it refuses, laughs at you, and pulls another exception out of its bag of tricks for no reason other than I’m a gaikokujin and it can.  How many times have I asked her why something is the way it is and gotten a shrug, I look online, and find a fascinating, halfways sensible, completely counterintuitive explanation so loaded down with exceptions and rules about when to use it and when not that you’re actually worse off than when you began?

I’m trying to get back into studying right now, I really am, but to be honest, even though the language interests me, I feel like I’m drowning in a sea of unforgiving kanji, and there are no lifeboats.

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.

Why Does One Study Japanese?

I’m sure there are many different motivations.

Some people study Japanese because they love anime and manga.  That is not why I study Japanese.

Some people study Japanese because they want to go to Japan.  That is not why I study Japanese.

Some people study Japanese because they love the culture.  That is not why I study Japanese.

Some people study Japanese because they want to find a Japanese partner.  This is not why I study Japanese.

Some people study Japanese because it’s difficult.  This is not why I study Japanese, though it’s getting closer.

Why do I study Japanese?

Because I’m bored.  Seriously.

I picked one of the most difficult languages in human history to study because I had nothing better to do.

That is me, in a nutshell.