Today is my third Japanese lesson. As I sat in our conference room rereading my notes for class tonight, I realized I forgot to update you on last week’s lesson. How terrible! Here goes:
Last week’s lesson was not horrible and yet was not Sara at her best. I felt like the slowest language learner EVER! I suppose, I really shouldn’t, given that the one student in class is Chinese and therefore has/had a head start on me and the other student in class has taken Japanese before. The other two students who were not in class last week are the same combination-one has learned some Japanese before and the other is half Japanese. I realized that in a class of five, I am the ONLY person that is either not of Asian heritage or has never taken a lesson in Japanese. Therefore, I really can not be too hard on myself!
But there’s that part of me that is a perfectionist, has always been a perfectionist, and she’s the one that is telling me that I need to up the ante here. I need to get my head on correctly and my shit together if I’m ever going to tackle this language that is not anything like English, or any of the other languages I sort of know.
What made last week’s class so difficult was that I was exhausted and in pain, but I was determined to go. The weekend leading into Monday saw me out two nights in a row until 3:30 am, dancing, drinking, laughing and walking about. I saw one friend leave town, another friend come into town for a visit and then had my little brother come for a visit Tuesday. Needless to say, my days were full of enjoyment, busy with good things and exhausting (mostly from a lack of sleep).
I am not complaining about any of this, I’m just giving you an idea of where my mind was when I walked into Japanese class last Monday and realized that I barely studied. Mumbling words and numbers while quickly eating three crunchy tacos does not really count for studying, by the way. Anyhow, I sat down and our instructor, Dai, immediately started asking us how we were doing, or rather, “genki desuka?” to which I said, “How do you say I feel like shit?” Yep, fail one of the lesson.
You should know that when asked “genki desuka?” you should respond with, “genki desu.” This essentially means, “How are you doing?” In response you say, “I’m doing fine.” Now, this was my second lesson (of the five) and there I sat, trying to figure out if I should say fine, even though I didn’t feel fine, or if I should just own up to feeling like crap and give Dai a signal that I was having an off day and might not be the bright, charming student I showed the Monday before. Clearly, I went with the latter option and he responded by laughing and saying that in the future, I could just say, “ma-ma” which is the equivalent of saying, “so-so.” Lesson learned.
As the class continued, I started to feel worse and ended up in a classic Sara position, saying “F*&%” when I couldn’t remember how to respond to a question. Let me set the stage for this one because it was so quick and somewhat embarrassing that I could only blush and apologize for my faux pas- I was in pain, exhausted and feeling like an idiot, when Dai said, Sara-san, please say XXX and I said, “okay. Ummmmmmmm. F&*$” and then Dai said, “Sara-san, it’s okay for you to read your notes. You’ll get this. Also in Japanese there is no f, so you can’t say that word.” Even though Dai seemed to be okay with it and laughed at my blurt, I promised to not curse again and so substituted “crap” for every time I forgot a word or sentence or simply couldn’t get what we were talking about.
So here we are today, Monday, April 25th. Tonight is my third class. I’m excited. A bit on the tired side, but I did take 15 minutes or so, maybe less, to quickly review my notes and do some of my homework. Tonight, I will go into class more alert than last week (good sign that I’m not feeling ill) and ready to face Dai and the Japanese language with a smile, no illness, or pain, no self anger, no perfectionist mentality, and definitely no embarrassment for not picking things up as quickly as the other students.
With just two weeks of classes under my belt, I can tell basic time, count to 100, ask for a menu and the bathroom, introduce myself, ask how much an item costs, differentiate between items that are close to me, far from me and far from both me and someone else, and ask someone for their phone number/email, birthday and name. I have to say even I’m overwhelmed by the sheer amount I’m taking in at this point!
I just keep telling myself that this is expanding my world a bit and reminding myself of the ultimate prize, being able to speak some Japanese when I’m making paper in Japan. I can see it already. I hope you can, too.