Me and Japanese, we’ve had our ups and downs but we’ve been pretty smooth. I like talking in Japanese. I have very little problems with it. I’m technically doing grad school in Japanese. I like Japanese-language me, who is so quirky and funny and lighthearted. I can interpret japanese better than I can my own native language. I can give academic presentations in Japanese, and they’re full of jokes and the audience loves them. For all intents and purposes I consider myself fluent in the language.
It’s time to move on from my grad school, and I have to face the reality that I am not, in fact, fluent.
See, japanese people are very kind when it comes to language. Unlike English speakers they never mock your accent or poor grammar. Unlike portuguese or chinese speakers, they can understand you even if you make mistakes. Unlike the speakers of most languages in the world, they don’t mind the fact that you are illiterate, and english words are acceptable substitutes for when you can’t be arsed to learn the Japanese one.
I have my Ph.D admission next semester and I have had to come to terms with the fact that my laziness is limiting my opportunities. Every time I see ‘admission exam in Japanese’, I know that I can’t pass it and should look somewhere else. Because I can’t handwrite in Japanese, and I sure as hell cannot write a native-like essay in the language. Give me time, a computer and a proofreader and it’s not a problem; but most people do not have time, computers, and proofreaders.
Since I moved here I’ve been relying on the kindess and understanding of others. I’ve been having to read a lot so I kept on reading translations because I’d get a deeper understanding of the text (and in a shorter amount of time). I’ve been avoiding handwriting like the plague, stopped studying, and well, stopped trying. It is only now that I treasure my admission sans essay, the fact that I can write reports in English, and the friends I have to help me out. I see some of my non-English speaking colleagues writing their entire dissertation in flawless Japanese, even though my Japanese was better than their 2 years ago. I can see their growth; They can see the lack of mine. Until now I’ve been jokingly answering ‘no way’ when my colleagues would ask me ‘when are you going to work on your japanese already?’; it’s time to reap what I’ve sown.