Abiola_Lapite's photos More of Abiola_Lapite's photos

« The Madness of President Roh | Main | Here We Go Again ... »

July 10, 2006



Omedeto! Can you see the cheerleaders doing V signs over by the bleachers? Stretch your neck just a little bit...yes,!

To put down a few comments on your experience:

1. The vocabulary limit does in fact look pretty reasonable to me: I was able to follow about 30 - 50% of Japanese conversations that I encountered with nowhere near that level of linguistic assets.

2. Japanese is indeed fun to learn - and theres a whole slew of personal behaviors that I suspect people pick up with learning Japanese that make it even more fun - the faux expressions of surprise etc.

3. How about listening while hanging out? Several years ago, I picked up a certain Afro-Asiatic language mostly by hanging with those who spoke the language and being a "spare wheel" for extended periods of time. It has been my strategy with Korean also. Makes me look kinda like a complete retard, and a clueless wannabe with absolutely no life whatsoever - but it works! Hang, Listen, Imitate, Hang. I should patent that. I think many people are afraid of this they think about learning a new language: It requires occupying a certain position in a social heirarchy that most people arent very comfortable with occupying.
Tapes and books and partners are good - but to really get the feel of it, you need to be out in the field. Particularly for languages that have nowhere as extensive a utilized literature set as many national languages do: What one can hope to pick up of these languages has to be some sort of the oral vernacular.


Abiola -

Excellent post on the trials of Japanese learning. You raise a good point on diversifying the range of written material to absorb the language. Just being able to read the Asahi, while useful, won't give someone the full range of the language's vocabulary and its meanings.

Plus reading material that originates from various areas of Japan will also introduce someone to the dialect unique to that prefecture/region. A friend of mine gave me a handbook on Miyagi Prefecture colloquialisms that is quite useful. Plus he shows me how to use them in conversation. ("Biki" = "kaeru", "to return")

No argument with you there on the dreadful state of English-language reporting on Japan. Japan I imagine is not the only nation that gets misrepresented by reporters with poor or non-existant foreign language skills. Latin America and Europe have to deal with this sort of nonsense as well. I remember learning in a Poli Sci class back in college that a certain large American newspaper (NYT I think, I wouldn't be surprised if it were true) had its base for Latin American reporting operations based in Florida!
Not only are they lazy at learning the language, they don't even bother interacting with the culture. And if they do interact with the culture, they tend to hightail it with the upper echelons of society, rather than the middle or lower classes. Then again, it is easier, more efficient, and cheaper to rely on tabloids and sensationalism rather than solid dedicated reporting.

Chuckles - I agree that field work is an important, if not integral, neccessity for getting a language down. In a way the stress you experience when you struggle to comprehend the flow of the language and the many new words you are unfamiliar with can be a good motivator.

I know what you mean by feeling like a retard though, I feel like it almost all the time. Once I manage to naturally say the words or phrases that eluded me all the time in a conversation, things get a little better. It sure beats sitting in a stuffy classroom for an hour or two.


[...It sure beats sitting in a stuffy classroom for an hour or two...]

A generally poor place to learn a language. How exactly can one hope to learn a language in any meaningful sense when one is surrounded by folks just as ignorant as oneself?

The comments to this entry are closed.

Notes for Readers