In my last rant, I had admitted my ignorance about others who were also learning this language. I do know a couple of people close to me that are learning Japanese, but since I’m not in a classroom, I don’t know much else about Japanese language learners and their motivations. I’ve learned a lot through reading comments on J-Blogs, but nothing beats a one-on-one conversation. I had the pleasure of interviewing Char, who also owns a blog, called Japanese from Scratch.
A few months ago he interviewed me through e-mail, and I thought his questions were fantastic. I really wanted to know more about his reasons for learning Japanese and his favorite ways to study, so I decided to send him a list of questions and he was nice enough to answer.
Why did you choose Japanese?
I was exposed to Japanese people from a young age and over a period of time I realized all the toys I had and all the cartoons I liked were from Japan.
From there, I was interested in the culture but always thought that learning the language was impossible. Then a few years back I met a Japanese couple who were vacationing in Hawaii and I accidentally bumped into him. I said sorry but from there we talked for about an hour. He hardly spoke english and I did not know Japanese. We exchanged email addresses and from there I finally decided to try and learn the language.
And how exactly did you manage to have an hour long conversation with this man?
There were a lot of hand gestures and he had a pocket translator.
What are some of your favorite learning methods?
This is a great question. I failed sooooo much but I think this is what I am settling on. L, Ill let you know in a few months how its going, hahahha. But right now I am basically using the book Japanese For Everyone. Before going into the lesson, I pick out the vocab I want to learn, then make flash cards out of them with my Palm Pilot. When I learn the vocab I then go through the lesson and flash card the example sentences in the chapter. After all the methods I have tried, wasted a lot of time, I finally have settled on this method, it’s the best for my brain I think.
For Kanji, I am experimenting with two methods and I have not settled on one yet. One method is Remembering the Kanji, but another one is using the Kanji and Kana book by tuttle and learning Kanji by themselves and then flash card the kanji compounds. I did a test of that and was surprised how much I remembered.
If you had to do it all over again, what would you change?
I would stop trying to find the holy grail of methods and just do it. If you have a book like Genki, or Japanese for Busy People, or Japanese for Everyone, don’t stop, go through the whole book and then move on. I wasted a few years thinking I could find the magic bullet going from method to method and believing websites that were trying to sell stuff, but it still requires work and at the end of the day, that is what I found out I needed to do.
Have you ever been to Japan? If not, are you planning a trip in the future?
I have never been to Japan, my friend lives in Ishikawa, and one day I would like to visit him there. Its the country so I would love to get lost in Japan and trip out the natives, hahahhaa.
Very interesting. I have never once heard someone that hasn’t included Tokyo in their answer. Any interest in the big city?
To tell you the truth, no. It is my hope that one day I could go to Japan and travel to an area that has little or no vacationers there.
That way I would be fully immersed in the culture and language and really enjoy the experience.
What is your favorite thing about the Japanese language?
Wow, this is a hard question, I never really thought about it. Hmmmmmm lets see. I guess I would say that to me when I hear Japanese, it has a flow to it, almost like music. I know it may sound like I’m crazy, but to me its quite beautiful to the ear.
What is the most interesting thing about Japanese culture that you’ve learned about?
Well I have a lot of Japanese friends now, and the one thing that seems to stick out to me is the fact that when you get to know a Japanese person, they are just like everyone else, they have likes and dislikes, opinions, prejudices. Its just that they are better at hiding those feelings then most. Oh, another thing that I find interesting is the fact that you should be very careful and slow in allowing true friendships develop. Many times I have seen American people think they are closer to a Japanese person when in reality they are not. The Japanese people are extremely polite, but it takes time to have a meaningful friendship. I have applied this in my personal life in general now and I see value in it.
Such a short interview and I’ve learned so much! Especially the bit about Japanese friendships. Although I knew Japanese people were extra friendly to everyone, I didn’t know how difficult it was to get into their inner circle. Good to know! Thank you Char for sharing your experiences!