Monday, January 23, 2012

Refreshing My Nihongo

Once upon a time, 13-year-old Charlie decided Japan was pretty awesome.

Her then 15-yr-old sister had also decided Japan was awesome, and then thought, "Hey, it would be cool to learn Japanese." (Which she later majored in.)

So Sister taught Charlie all the basics of Japanese.

Charlie then took Community Education classes in Japanese, two years of [very, very bad] Japanese instruction in high school, and four semesters [of very, very intense] Japanese classes in college. And then she graduated in English and forgot all her Japanese.

My desire to rekindle my Japanese would always come when A) I watched the very rare Japanese TV show or drama [with subtitles, of course], or B) Someone else who spoke Japanese tried to strike up a conversation with me, and I failed about 20 seconds in. I've forgotten all my kanji and almost everything beyond basic grammar.

Then a long-lost penpal (we're talking 10 years of long-lostness) found me on Facebook and, in her simple English, asked if I was the same Charlie she had written to in junior high. Needless to say, I was ecstatic to hear from her.

I've been reconsidering my Japanese ever since. I got a CD meant to play in the car to learn Japanese, though it's just a "repeat what I say" type of format, not actually anything conducive to learning. Fortunately, I can still use it as a refresher. I would LOVE to try the Rosetta Stone software, but it's painfully expensive. Painfully.

So, baby steps. I still have my old textbooks (and a great book called "Making Out in Japanese" which teaches you key conversational phrases and then some something-something). Hopefully I'll find some free time to look into them and smarten up.

Do any of you speak a foreign language? How did you learn it?


  1. My four semesters of Italian have left me with the ability to pronounce anything on an Italian menu and a keen sense for how bad I am at learning languages.

    My two years of junior high Spanish have left me with the ability to say some key lifeguard phrases: "How old are you?," "Where is your mother?," and "You need to stay with your kids all the time." They're the only phrases I ever used.

    The semester of Welsh I took in college, plus my study abroad experience, allows me to say "I play rugby," "blackberry-ing," and "library." I also know how to say "I don't speak Welsh," which is an excessively superfluous phrase because everyone who speaks Welsh speaks English. I only had to use it at the Eisteddfod, where everyone assumed that if you were there you spoke Welsh (which was probably a good assumption, unless you were talking to a group of study abroad students from America).

  2. One of my best friends majored in Japanese and lived abroad for a year and a half, AND he still struggles with little nuances and details. It's amazing how complicated that language is, so I applaud your ability to a) learn it at all, and b) your pledge to get back into it. P.S.-I can't find your Followers button. Am I missing something here? ;)

  3. I took two years of French in high school and all I remember is how to say excuse me (two different ways!) and "what happened?" Of course the problem with the latter is I don't know any French so when they answer, I won't understand anyway. xD

    Right now, I'm in my second semester of German. Great language, but the course is pretty intensive compared to my high school experience. I learned more German in half a semester than I learned of French in two whole years, to give some idea.

    I think when learning a new language it helps to have someone to practice with, and to immerse yourself in it as completely as possible (I changed my FB language to German for a while just for grins and giggles). I'm told nothing beats actually living in the country where the language is spoken though.

    Good luck with (re)learning Japanese!

  4. You should find a drama to watch and start writing down new words you learn. Or when you listen to Japanese music (aka KARA) look up the lyrics and try to learn a few of the words from there. Maybe you can start writing to your pen pal in Japanese for practice too(I could proofread is you want.)

  5. I completed two years of French in junior high and two years of Spanish in high school, which I remember just enough of to tell people I don't speak the language: No habla Espanol.
    I started with basic Japanese in college several years ago. I'm an anime nut so I thought it would be cool to try to understand what was being said in the "direct from Japan" shows I could catch.
    Life changed and that stopped three months in, though the anime love didn't.
    I hope you're able to get your Japanese comprehension and speech back in order.

  6. Sounds like everyone's middle/junior high/high school experiences are the same--nobody remembers anything. Perhaps this country ought to revamp its foreign language curriculum.

    I took Spanish in high school and remember nearly nada. Russian for two semesters in college was much more fun and I retained more at the time, but all of that is gone. Even the alphabet. I'd like to pick it up again, but have no idea when I would. Hubby wants to learn Italian, and he also likes the idea of the Rosetta stone stuff, but I agree that it's very very expensive.

    Good luck!

  7. Wow, Japanese. So ambitious for two young girls! I love that it became part of your life. Best of luck re-learning it.

    I speak French (Jr. High, HS, and college classes, then a mission in a French-speaking country for 18 months for my church), and a little Spanish (had to learn a 3rd language for my French master's program, then took my new husband to Ecuador for 3 months to solidify it . . . but it's not quite solid yet). I love learning other languages and would like to learn more!

  8. Yeah, I'm in the same boat. It's embarrassing that I can barely remember a language (Japanese) I've spent ten years learning. Having kids (and therefore a busy life) really sucks your energy and brainpower. I've been endeavoring to get back on the bandwagon, too.

    I highly recommend Pimsleur Japanese (the full version CDs, don't sell out for the condensed), Japanese Verbs and Essentials of Grammar (Rita Lampkin), and Kanji and Kana: A Complete Guide to the Japanese Writing System (try to get it in workbook format if you can) for all beginners. See Alex's books, I got her all three for her birthday, plus I have a bajillion more here at home you can borrow.

    Someday I hope I can brush up on my Spanish, ASL, and Italian, but Japanese is the priority.

    And hey, I'm not as good as a native speaker, but I'm always available to practice with.

  9. Oh, the kanji workbook/index book is by Wolfgang Hadamitzky and Mark Spahn, just FYI. And hey, if you want those books for your birthday, let me know. ^_^ I always take care of my peeps.

  10. This sounds like me and Spanish, though my forgetting it is due to my barely learning it in the first place, despite about six years of study. Lol.

    Good luck!

    You should do a post teaching a few words/phrases ;) (There, I just gave you an idea for the next time you get stuck, haha!)