16 November 2009

Learning Japanese.

Some Facts:
I have lived in this foreign country for 1 year &  10 months, but only actively trying to communicate in Japanese for the past few months.
I have expanded my vocabulary - ten.fold. ((yeeahh!)), but I resort to jap-glish (mixed sentences of Japanese & English) almost everyday.
I have shamefully walked away from people that didn't understand my Japanese, then thought about what they told their families about me.
I have been so totally embarrassed shy of my new vocabulary that I don't use it.
I have had a few successful conversations and they make me feel accomplished.
I have bought many products where the salesman did not speak English and had to figure out how to use the product on my own (because I didn't understand the directions).
I have a notebook strictly dedicated to the phrases I use the most:
Making Reservations, Buying Clothes, Asking for the Check.
I have cried in a taxi when I couldn't tell the driver where to take me, and through my tears I asked to go back to Yokota Air Base (almost traumatized me from leaving the confines of this base again, ever).

As long as the conversation stays on a few limited topics..
I can communicate. 
As long as the Japanese can understand broken sentences..
I can communicate.
As long as the the other person speaks to me like I'm 5..

I can communicate.

Here is what it must sound like during a conversation with me:
[ I. shrimp. no. eat. today. I'm sorry. (sad face). no. no. shrimp-no-eat. hate. no. eat. thank. you. (bow slightly) ] [This. (point to shirt on mannequin). where?. I. Like. I. Buy. Please. This. (point again) I. Buy. Where?.][Check. Seperate. Two. (count to self, outloud). -one-two-. People. No. (point to kid). ((repeat)) No. (point to kid). Two. People. Yes. Thank. You.][Reservation. Please. Two. People. Six. Today. Six. Tonight. ?? Kate. Number? Hold On. English. Ok?. Good]

I also apologize after every conversation. Which (now that I think about it) might seem weird to them. But, for me.. I'm apologizing for A.) screwing up their language B.) possibly wasting their time &  C.) most likely making a fool out of myself.
Sometimes, I imagine them [[giggling]] to themselves later about me or telling their families how they encountered a crazy American trying to talk to everyone in Japanese.

Oh. Well. I keep pushing on.
Here is what I can do:
I can have a conversation about family.
Now (!!) I can make a complete reservation, properly.
I can ask where things are in the super market.
I can ask for a correct size.
I can ask for the price of something. 
I can have a conversation about studying.
I can follow a basic conversation about colors, weather, cost, likes/dislikes, and jobs.
I can introduce myself and people I'm with.

This might seem rheudamentary -BUT- it has taken a lot of practice to get to this point.
& Considering we live on an American base - I never (ever, ever!!) have to use my Japanese.

I'm incredibly thankful for my Japanese teacher - who also happens to be a good friend (and a previous student). Who is patient with my limited brain activity and space.

"A different language is a different vision of life."
-Federico Fellini  


  1. Wow! You should be proud of yourself. I'm sure it is a very hard language to learn. And it sounds like you didn't have to learn it but you wanted to.

  2. Go you! Asian languages are so hard to learn for Westerners. I already plan, if we get stationed overseas, to get myself a Rosetta Stone as soon as I know where...I hate when people come to my country and expect me to learn *their* language, and I figure I should learn their language if I'm living in their country. So I'm really hoping for an excuse to learn some Italian or Korean!

  3. JG said it perfectly.. you should be very proud of yourself for even getting out there and making an effort!! Keep it up.. you'll get it. I'm sure they apprectiate that more than you completely refusing to even try!

  4. That's such a hard language! I'm sure people respect that you try even if you may or may not get it right! I think it's great that you've been working on it and making progress! Congrats!

  5. I am right there with you babe. I wish I knew and understood more Japanese. I've been working hard on mine too, but it's also hard on my end when I don't have a Japanese friend or teacher to practice with. My husband took several years of Japanese and has forgotten just about everything.

    So keep at it girl. You can do it. :)