Thursday, October 06, 2005

Not Studying Japanese and Me

I’m going to get a big geekish for a minute and talk about my Japanese studies.

I’ve decided NOT to take the Japanese proficiency test this year. This will mark the second year of non-taking the test, after 2 years in a row of taking it. Last year I missed out on it by mistake. This year it was a conscious decision.

As I’ve mentioned on this weblog previously, I’ve more or less given up studying Japanese. I was going really hard at it for a long time, and then I just lost enthusiasm last year.

I kept taking Japanese classes however. Class by itself will only get you so far without private study, but just by virtue of the fact that I was taking classes 2 times a week plus attending tutoring sessions on Wednesday night, I was still somewhat making progress despite the fact I wasn’t officially studying.

Now that my teacher has fallen sick and the Japanese classes suddenly canceled, I’m left with only the Wednesday night tutoring sessions. And I’m trying to keep up on my listening as well with various tapes and CDs I have: Japanese music, the New Testament in Japanese on tape, the Mishima/ Zengakuren debates, etc.

But as far as sitting down and seriously memorizing kanji or learning grammar, I feel those days are over.

There are a million reasons why I’m easing off. I’m fairly certain I’ll leave Japan in March, so now that the end is in sight, a lot of motivation is lost. I don’t foresee seeking employment in any field related to Japan, and even if I did I would need years more of study to get my Japanese up from daily conversation to professional employment level.

Also as I’m feeling like I’ve stayed too long in Japan, I’m starting to lose interest in all things Japanese. Reading an English book or writing on this weblog seems like a much better way to keep sanity than studying kanji figures.

Certainly when I compare myself to four years ago, when I first arrived in Japan and didn’t know a thing, I’ve made a lot of progress. I realized that especially this summer when I saw the new JETs come in.

But I’ve also reached a point where I’m realizing my limitations as well. When I first arrived in Japan, I thought that if I would just study hard enough, fluency was achievable. Now 4 years later I find myself realizing that I’ll never be fluent. I still find myself flubbing basic grammar patterns I should have learned long ago. No matter how much I study them, they never become second nature as my native language does, and I frequently mess up when I’m speaking quickly. I still speak with a heavy American accent that makes it hard for Japanese people to understand me sometimes. And after 4 years, I’m still a long ways away from understanding everything that goes on around me, or doing things like reading a Japanese newspaper or magazine.

I’m sure if I studied more it would improve slightly, but right now I just don’t feel like dealing with it.

Link of the Day
I know I've been linking to a lot of audio files. My apologies to you who are reading this at work or don't have high speed internet or can't join in the fun. But there's just so much good stuff to listen to out there.

This NPR show in which Christopher Hitchens talks about Thomas Jefferson is absolutely fascinating. I know, I know, Christopher Hitchens isn't my favorite person right now either, but he has some interesting thoughts on Jefferson.

When you're done with that, give your inner-geek a treat with this interview with Stan Lee. (The creater of Spider Man,...But of course you knew that.)


bill naka said...

I have a auto blue book site. It pretty much covers auto blue book related stuff. Check it out if you get time :-)

vegetarian w/ leather jacket said...

Yeah, I know what you mean about the Asian languages...Chinese just started to seem so pointless after a while....I heard it takes AT LEAST 6 years to gain fluency and, with the progrss I was making, I was like screw it!....I don't want to live or work in China. I don't want to do Asian studies. It would be totally pointless to put in the time to learn this language...No way!...and I've heard Japanese, at least the written language and probably grammar, is harder (no tones, though! me, to us westerners...these are truly an instrument of eveil!), anyway, I had totally convinced myself I was 'language dumb'...(after all, I never been the most fluid speaker, even in my own language..), but, now, I'm taking Spanish. After only a month of studying, I feel like I can totally learn this language. And it will be way, way more useful for me, as I want to go into non-profit community work....which, in turn, probably helps my motivation and ease of learning....