I can not believe that I’ve been studying Japanese for nine weeks. I just can’t!
I also can not believe that next Monday is my last class of Japanese for the beginner session. I have yet to decide if I’m going to take the second session or not. I think with marathon training coming up, it’s best for me not to add anything else to my already busy load, but still part of me is sad to think that Monday nights will no longer belong to Dai and my classmates.
I know that in the end, I am the one who must keep up the language and I think later this year as I get closer to my departure for Japan, it will make sense to take up the language again, but for now, I think a break is in order. I may attempt to find someone who I can have a language swap with. That could be kind of fun actually–I practice Japanese and they practice English. We’ll see.
Part of the other thing that makes me unsure about taking a break is that we’ve learned so much in nine weeks!
When I walked into that classroom initially, I only knew that Japanese was a hard language. Or so I’ve been told. I had yet to really test the waters aside from a half-made attempt several years back. That attempt included a workbook and a CD. I dare anyone to try to learn Japanese that way. Isn’t going to happen. You’ve been warned.
When I walked into class this Monday, even in my exhaustion, I was excited. The excitement was short-lived, but it is important that you know I was excited. Until we learned that you conjugate adjectives in Japanese. Yes, people, you read that correctly. In the Japanese language you conjugate adjectives. I have never heard or seen anything like this before. Ever.
I should also add that the conjugations fall into present and past tenses, which blew me out of the water. I understand the concept, but having to conjugate something else threw me off. Yet it was oddly satisfying.
Every session for the past nine weeks, my brain has been forced to be rewired a bit. It is an amazing feeling. An oddly amazing feeling. It also leaves me feeling quite capable of accomplishing and creating anything and everything. There is such a reward in learning a new language and it’s not just the obvious of being able to communicate with people in that language, it’s in the way you think and feel.
Last year, while walking the streets of Paris with a friend, we talked about the many languages he knows (about 7, including Russian!) and he said, “regardless how many languages you know, your voice is the language you were born into.” Something like that. I can’t remember his exact words in that moment. What I do remember is our walk and how his response left me feeling awed. (Have you noticed how awed I always am?) As I thought about all the languages I’ve studied, listened to and attempted to learn and now, speak vaguely well, I knew the truth of his statement. I also felt connected to him in a way that I didn’t when I met him in Santiago, Chile months before.
Back to Japanese, it was during the point where I realized we had to conjugate these adjectives that I suddenly got incredibly sleepy. I call this level of sleepiness the point where I just need a cab to drop me off in front of my apartment. Carrying my daily luggage and walking is not an option at this stage. I did manage to take the bus home, but my eyes dropped as I rode the bus and my walk home was more of a slow shuffle.
At this point in class, I apologized to Dai for my “future” behavior. Everyone who knows me knows that when I reach this point I get beyond silly. Everything and anything makes me laugh. An example of this is when Dai and my three classmates decided to try pronouncing this one word that had a lot of “attatta” in it. Hearing Dai was not funny, but hearing my three classmates trying to repeat the word was hilarious. So hilarious that I broke down in crying laughter which caused Dai to say, “Sara, don’t laugh at my language.” I again apologized and told him it wasn’t him or his language that I was laughing at, but instead my classmates. He then laughed and class was fine, but I knew at that point that it was time for me to go home and luckily for me I was able to pass the quiz he gave us on vocabulary words.
As we walked out of class, one of my mates said that if someone were to drop the four of us in the middle of Japan, we wouldn’t be perfect in our Japanese ability, but we’d get by. He’s absolutely correct. With only one week to go, we’ve covered a lot of ground in this class. I can introduce myself, tell the time, make a reservation at a hotel, ask the price of things, and now say, “‘this tree is big.” Exactly the things I need to know when I take Japan by storm!
One more week to go!