I’ve started to teach myself Nihongo. Nihongo is Japanese for Japanese. My goal is to be able to speak with and understand the Japanese people. There is just something about Japan that speaks to me if you know what I mean. I took a course in Japanese when I was in college, but have forgotten more than I ever learned. You know the old saying, use it or lose it. Well I lost it.
Fortunately, I am a bit of a pack rate when it comes to books. I still have my college Japanese book. The title is An Integrated Course in Elementary Japanese (Second edition). I started off using this website (https://www.duolingo.com/skill/ja/Hiragana-1) to help me practice my hiragana. It is a great site to use and it is free. You get audio cues, hiragana, and kanji in each lesson. I only practice it about five or ten minutes a day.
I didn’t know what to expect out of using this site. Only having to practice five or ten minutes a day? I really didn’t think it would help. Boy was I wrong. I found by the third day I was going over them in my head without even realizing it. I had remembered them! By day five (yesterday) I was learning new things and going over the old ones. I was getting everything right.
I know it is too early to get my hopes up, but I am making great progress. I was talking to a lady at work yesterday about music. She was saying how there was nothing good on anymore. I told her I was listening to JPop and Jrock. I of course had to explain what they were. The conversation turned to understanding what they were saying. I told her I was trying to teach myself Japanese. She was shocked a little.
She has the same response everyone from America has when it comes to learning a language they think is too difficult to learn. Unlike other countries, we don’t grow up speaking or learning a second language at birth. We typically don’t learn another language until High School. Even then it is only if we want to. I took French. Anyway, we tend to see a language as complicated as Japanese to be too difficult for us to learn.
I thought this same thing. What changed for me was taking that first class in college. I struggled with it. I kept fighting myself. I had to let go of that fear of learning Japanese. I think it is that fear that keeps us from learning. A fun fact for all of you English speakers out there; English is much harder to learn than Japanese. Don’t believe me? How about the word lead? Lead: To lead others. Lead: A metallic element. That is only one of many words we have. How about their, there, and they’re for example? How many English speakers still have trouble with that? Think of how hard it is for someone who is not a native English speaker.
Once you get over how difficult you think it is to learn Japanese it can be a lot of fun. Just think of all the things you will be able to do then? Right now I am listening to J-rock. Soon I will be able to understand everything! Doesn’t that excite you? Go out and give it a try. I know what you are thinking. Why do that when you have translator software. Well they don’t work so well with Japanese. Go try the site out I listed above. Learn something new today.