Language Update

[Taylor]

Well, Spring is here and Julie and I have established a rhythm at work again. I’ve introduced myself to the incoming underclassmen and have tried to teach them how to introduce themselves to their peers. We feel rejuvenated now that the snow is gone and the flowers and trees have begun to blossom.

With that said, tonight we’re having a low key evening. Tomorrow we’ll be traveling to Hirosaki Park to see thousands of blooming cherry trees lined around a famous castle. Check our blog in a day or two for pictures.

In the meantime I thought tonight would be a good night to give an update on how we’re doing with studying Japanese.

On our last day in Korea, Julie and I talked with our friends about how nice it’ll be to go back to Japan because we’ll actually be able to communicate with people verbally. On our first day back I went to an onsen and tried to talk with an old man. I lasted two sentences before admitting defeat by explaining that Japanese is difficult and that I didn’t understand everything he was saying. I went home humbled. Julie, on the other hand, was able to call a restaurant later that night and order take out entirely in Japanese.

Today we went out to eat at one of our favorite restaurants. It’s a small restaurant and there were a couple people sitting at a table nearby. Their chatter over pasta and pizza was ambient speech babble to my ears. I had no idea what they were saying. Towards the end of our meal I casually mentioned that the other people in the restaurant looked familiar.  Julie countered by saying that they weren’t from Noheji.  Confused, I replied, “Couldn’t they be from anywhere? Even Noheji?” Julie then explained that the people had been talking about what people in Noheji do for fun(“they can go to the big store in a nearby town but if they want to watch a movie they have to go to Aomori…”).  She was able to pick out many details of their conversation as well as the tone (“these are their options”) that indicated they were outside of the Noheji “group.” Here’s the cool part: she wasn’t listening intently. In fact Julie and I spent most of the dinner having our own conversation in English. For Julie, Japanese is no longer incomprehensible background noise, at least some of the time.

So Julie has really impressed me. She’s got a great gift for listening and speaking languages. She’s also too humble to talk about it here so that’s why I’m writing this. Awesome job, Julie.

I’ve discovered I’m not so good at listening and speaking a new language, but I love reading and pattern recognition. I’ve been studying kanji like crazy in my free time at work. With the help of mnemosyne and a fantastic book, I’ve been learning more characters and how the radicals are related to each other. It’s a lovely linguistic puzzle with pictures. One interesting thing I’ve learned (I could name several others) is that the kanji character for fondness is comprised of two radicals: mother and child.

Anyway, although we’ve made some progress, we know we have much to improve upon. In my case I feel like I’m learning things I should have been able to say or read months ago. However, now that we know our strengths and weaknesses, it should become easier to study at home and in the office.

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