Monday, 7 December 2015

In which I waffle on about language, part one: Random thoughts


Heavily indebted to and YesJapan (website and book series) for this. I've officially been learning Japanese now for around 14 months, though in reality, it's been more like 11-12 because of one thing or another (like, I've not done any Japanese this week because of this whole crippled arm thing I've had, like a pinched nerve or a tendon strain or something, I don't know, whatever it is it's bloody painful), but I'm getting there. Slowly but surely, bit by bit, I'm clawing my way to something resembling basic proficiency. At least in written Japanese, speaking is much harder to do and not just because it requires a more instantaneous response/less thinking time, but mostly because I have very little practice at it. I don't know of any other Japanese speakers/learners (funny little sidestory, there was this one guy/acquaintance who I thought would be into learning it, he went to the same JET (this teaching English in Japan thing) seminar as me, so I went up to him after the fact and asked if he was learning/knew Japanese (my cunning plan being to use him, as a fellow student, to practice speech), but he said he wasn't planning on learning Japanese, any at all, prior to going to Japan on the JET program...was like 'whaaaa', now, he could've just been fobbing me off, which is cool, but I'm certain he was being sincere (he's a bit of a tit tbh), which just boggles my mind...anyway) but even there I'm making some headway by watching Japanese videos/dramas.
Not anime, btw, I mean, don't get me wrong, I love anime, but it's not great for learning Japanese. An example of what I watch, and f you've got the time watch this show, is it's bloody heartbreaking, about a single father who's diagnosed with alzheimers and it's just...all dem feelz....but also, I watch news programmes and Japanese documentaries, mostly without subtitles. I don't understand much, my vocabulary is...not great...but, and I don't know if this is just me, but foreign languages in general....have you ever paid attention to them? Actually, I think it's true of native language too, but if you aren't actively listening, words and conversations just sort of blend together? In the native language though, it's easier to unpack, we can spot the patterns, in a foreign language though, it's much harder and is initially far less defined. I think it's a universal thing (i mean, barbarians are called so because their language is just like the braying of sheep, right?....terry deary ruined history for me), but the more practised the ear becomes, the easier it is to distinguish. For me, like I say, my Japanese vocabulary isn't great, but my grammar is fairly decent, so I can use that to differentiate words and context between's not foolproof, because native Japanese speakers tend to drop particles (which is perhaps the main reason anime is so bad for learning Japanese, the other reason being the language used is often terribly informal, which is something else we need to talk about later) and said particles (and conjunctions, etc.) also have multiple meanings (is that は simply marking the topic? the subject? indicating a contrast? or emphasising?), every language has this though, or something like this, especially when spoken, and that's even without getting into dialects....Anyway, yes, so, incredibly, the more you listen, the better you get at hearing. That's, I mean, who saw that coming, right? And who would write a lengthy, convoluted paragraph about it, probably some weirdo right? Pfft, imagine....
I love it though....I really wish I had started learning it sooner. When I was in school (going back about twelve years ago now), I bought this Lonely Planet Japanese phrasebook. I had a plan to learn Japanese from a phrasebook....I was a dumb kid (and now I'm a slightly less dumb, but still pretty dumb, adult, yay!) and not just because I spent like two weeks when I was fifteen or whatever, copying down phrases like 'わたしのなめえはTerenceです.' (which is sort of correct, but not really, it makes sense, but it's very touristy...iono, like going to Nice, France and calling it so it rhymes with ice, or something) and completely misunderstanding the sentence structure (what do you mean, わたしはたべてすし is wrong, everythings in there, 私は, I am, 食べて, eating, すし, sushi, I am eating sushi, it's perfectly fine!), and actually, this has all been a lie, because I didn't even use hiragana...I used romaji exclusively...I put it aside for the next ten years. I mean, literally. Every so often, I'd find that phrasebook and be like 'huh...guess I'll give this another go', last about two days at most and put it aside again. Curse you past Terence! It's said that Japanese takes six to twelve years (on average) to become truly fluent....we could've been fluent by now, you prick!
Anyway, I'm going to bring this to a close now because, originally, this was a post on facebook and was just going to be just that little introduction/basic facts thing which I did at the start, and then adding a plug for the actual blog thing which I'm going to be writing later today (or maybe now tomorrow) on languages (though it'll be more about languages in general than specifically to do with Japanese or English, how it shapes our perception of the world and such, you know, fun stuff :D)...things got out of hand pretty quickly, I just don't know what went wrong....I blame the fact I couldn't write for a week, so now, verbiage! verbiage everywhere! Good day to you!

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