Side effects to learning Japanese

When you decide to get serious about Japanese, you have to learn discipline. Study every day. If only a little bit.

For someone as lazy as me, this was difficult. I had had streaks of trying hard, but never for too long, and they rarely continued past the point of steady progress. Struggling with Japanese has taught me that it doesn’t matter if you feel the progress, if you feel the point, if you’re any good, if you have problems, if you have talent; what matters is that you keep at it.

Even if serendipity had not allowed Japanese to become such a great part of my life (never had I dreamed of even visiting Japan, tbh), I think that the discipline would have helped me a lot in life. And it does; it really changes the way you perceive studying. I sometimes notice myself having made progress in grad school, and I’m like Woot, aren’t you glad you’re so obsessive despite your self-defeatism? Lately I’ve been noticing the same thing with Chinese, Spanish, and my moocs. I don’t dedicate that much time to them, really. But I’m doing it (almost) daily, and I don’t find myself judging my progress, but my dedication. The question is not ‘is my Chinese any good?’ (of course at this level I am still terrible), but ‘have I been working on it?’ (yep, I have!)

You learn to treasure every hint at progress; any reference that you catch, any word that you manage to make out, any random occurrence that you know is a product of your hard work. Even if you don’t have cues, learning to work with online resources has allowed me to take solace in the fact that I may not *feel* the progress, but at least I have palpable proof that I have been working. It’s great, it really is.

streak zh

On Sounding Unnatural

So I’ve been back for a few weeks. My Japanese isn’t 100% back yet, but aside from me no one really seems to care. I stop midsentence, yell out すいませえ~ん日本語忘れてしまった dramatically, and everyone is confused because for the most part I sound the same as before. It’s quite funny. I’ve been practicing my Spanish, too, and am amazed to find that I had so many basic grammar mistakes in my everyday Spanish. I guess no one really cares?

I mean, sometimes I’ll have other foreigners around and they correct my Japanese. Or, say, people know that I have an exam coming up and will correct me to help me out. Or maybe it’s just my usual 日本語チェック coming back with a red word every other phrase. I am aware that I make basic mistakes, but so long as no one points it out and I’m not having a lapsus I don’t really care. Probably the most intimidating interactions I’ve had in Japanese were the ones where I had another learner around, and I knew that they were listening to what I was saying and trying to remember it (‘how did you ask for that?’ ‘I don’t know’ ‘But you just said it’ ‘Yeah, but…don’t listen to me anyway, my Japanese is terrible’)… Occasionally I will use a really weird word, and people will stop in their tracks and comment on it; maybe I will just notice that a word I just said is getting rephrased when people are repeating the sentence. I’ll make a mental note, and often times instantly adapt to it, but it’s really quite a rare thing. I am aware that my Japanese is not *correct*, but since the meaning gets across, it doesn’t affect my everyday life, and frankly most people are satisfied with my current level, I don’t really see any reason to improve it. Maybe I’m just lazy?

(now, the fact that my non-everyday Japanese is slowly decaying since I stopped actively practicing it, that there is a problem, but… motivation >_<….)

Japan as Home

A lot of the foreigners here refer to ‘home’ as their home country. ‘Going home for the holidays’. ‘When are you going home?’.

I had a pretty set attitude when I got here; I know that I’ll go back to Romania, but my home is in Nagoya now. So when people would ask me, they would be quite irritated by my answers. I think most people think it’s a coping method, and for a long time I also thought it was. I mean, just because a city is wonderful and it’s the best experience in my life and I am growing so much as a person here and have people that I feel close to doesn’t make it ‘home’, does it?

I went to South America for the holidays. It was pretty rad. But after a month or so, for the first time in my life, I got seriously homesick. I would start crying about wanting to go home. And throughout, I did not want to go to Romania; I wanted to go to Nagoya. I got back afraid that I’d forgotten Japanese and how to get around the city, but every time I stumble across a street that I haven’t seen since I left I feel this intense pang of nostalgia. It is lovely. My Japanese is objectively worse, and I’m having some trouble finding words, but It’s not as bad as it could be. I think that this experience was definitely a confirmation of my feelings about Nagoya.

It’s good to be back home.