Japanese, Lesson One

Last night I attended my first, real, Japanese lesson.

Some of you may be scratching your head at why I’m learning Japanese at this time. After all, I’ve admitted that I am in fact not going to Japan as soon as I thought I was.

So why?

Well. See.  I had to use my five-week long language lesson coupon that I purchased through Groupon last September.  It was going to expire if I didn’t use it before June. And in the early days of trying to figure out going to Japan, I knew that I was going to need to learn basic Japanese, but I wasn’t sure when I’d have the time to learn. That’s when I remembered I had language lessons waiting for me. So I signed up. I’m so glad I did…

Even though I’ve worked for a Japanese company the past four years, I’ve never really paid that much attention to the language. I did try to sign up for lessons two years ago, but it didn’t go anywhere. In fact, it seemed hard and well, let’s be honest I was a bit scared. I like my languages romantic. Not saying that any other non-romance language isn’t romantic, but I do well with Spanish, Italian and French. I think it’s just best to say that the language and I were not meant to be at that time. Time is such a funny concept, isn’t it? Yet, I do believe that timing is everything.

Anyhow, it all culminated yesterday. I arrived at Rennert Language Center on E. 45th and entered a booming center full of students registered for a variety of different classes–Arabic, French, Spanish, etc.  I asked for beginners Japanese and was directed to a small classroom at the end of the hall with two other students. Another student joined us 15 minutes after the session had started, but I had one of the best first language classes I’ve ever had. I felt like I had been transported back to Italian at GW, except we had much fewer students.

Oh, did I mention that before getting to class, I stopped at Staples and purchased new pencils and lead. The eco-warrior in me was not pleased, but I could not start my first day of lessons without a new pencil and honestly, I need good quality pencils for the sketching I do for my designs, so there you go. (I can talk myself into anything, by the way.)

Class started at 6:35 pm or so with the instructor introducing himself, asking us to write our names on paper and have them in front of us, and then passing out our workbooks. Again, excited! Even though, I was tired and drinking two-hour old coffee, I cracked open my notebook and started taking it all in.

The lesson lasted until 8:30 pm and involved us learning how to say good morning (Ohayou-casual; ohayou gozaimasu – formal, professional, first time meeting someone), good afternoon (konnichiwa) and good evening (kon ban wa).  After that we got into the bulk of the lesson–learning how to introduce ourselves and ask, “how are you?” as well as, “what is your name?”,  and “what is your phone number/email?”

We also learned how to count to 10–I am proud to say that I have 1-10 memorized and today alone have recited the numbers to two different coworkers who were very impressed.  We learned syllables and how to write some words in Japanese letters (I need to practice this for homework before next Monday).  Finally,  class ended with us learning how to go into a restaurant and ask for a menu, ask the price of a meal, order a meal and ask for the bathroom. All really important and good things!

When I left class, I felt a bit more confident than when I walked in and I left with my head swimming with words to remember so that I wouldn’t forget between now and next Monday.  Before I went to bed last night, I pulled out my books and my notes and started practicing. I counted on my fingers without looking to memorize the numbers ( I was successful) and then I went to sleep.

This morning, beaming I told my coworker and pal, Mark that I love my instructor and my class and that I’m really excited to learn Japanese. I still can’t believe I said that. Nine years ago, nobody would have believed me capable of saying that.

I tell you all of this because as I’ve told Mark  just yesterday, it’s amazing how our brain perceive things once you open another space in your mind. In my case, I explore other arts, languages, dance, countries, food, or anything else I can think of  to get a different take on life, but no matter what, I’m always left amazed at what is out there and yearning to take in more.

When I take a class on calligraphy, I care more about fonts I can use on digital design. When I knit, I crave more color. When I draw, I crave tangible texture. When I recycle, I wonder about how I can reuse things in other ways. When I dance, I crave ethnic music. When I learn a language, I crave an experience-a trip, meeting people who speak that language and learning from them. I suppose in this case, I’m still at the right place because I am surrounded by Japanese people for 40 hours a week.  When I add all of these together, I get a new perspective on how to see color, design, space, shapes, texture and words in a different way than before. It makes my work more interesting and more thoughtful. And it’s breathtaking and inspiring.

I can’t wait for next week’s lesson (I’ll blog about it, too) and to keep learning!

I Hope you’re learning something new if not every day, then at least every couple of days. Never stop learning, you never know where it will lead you.

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s2 stationery & designs

A rule-breaking designer, artist & entrepreneur who's passionate about paper and handcrafting stationery. I also write, travel, and focus on eco + social good.

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