The Good and the Bad

Today has proven to be something of a mixed bag in terms of productivity and reward. After my phone broke last week and my internet connection started to prove more than a little temperamental (It’s currently free so I can’t really complain about that) I decided I would finally ‘splash out’ and gt a pocket WiFi. Things were going rather well, I had bought a friend who spoke enough Japanese to get though the transaction and had enough documentation with me to start the contact. Unfortunately it turns out that the bank had decided to use a different spelling for my middle name on my bank card compared to my health insurance card. This being Japan meant that rather than looking at the more official ID, or even calling the bank to check that I am who I am, one little character difference stopped the whole process and now I have to go to the bank tomorrow to change it.

On the plus side after watching some friends fail to win an ice cream at a horrendously rigged claw machine I decided to try my luck on a different machine and won some anime statue thing on my first try. I don’t quite understand what this anime is all about. My best guess from what I have seen is that there are battleships, but these ships are also girls who fight other battleships, who are of course also girls. See why I’m confused yet?

Other than this slight name problem, everything else is still going pretty well. We are now on the third summer of the year as every time it gets a little bit colder two days later it shoots right back up. I’m starting to think that winter may actually never happen here and the land of the rising and permanent sun might be a better name for this place.

Japanese; it’s almost easy

But unfortunately it really isn’t. Japanese has the appeal and struggle of being considered the hardest language for a native English speaker to learn. And not for the reasons you might expect. Sure there are two alphabets with 46 characters in each. But once you learn these sounds they almost never change.

Of course there is also kanji, the 3000+ symbol writing system. Memorising this lot is quite the challenge, but with each one you learn you are safe knowing that it’s done, the meaning of that reading will not change. 

The problem is Japanese is a high context language. You can know all the words but unless you are in the situation good luck guessing what the topic was, cause that will be said once at the beginning and then dropped for the rest of the conversation. In English we like to state everyone quite clearly. Even when we are being ambiguous there is still only so much guesswork that’s needed. Japanese is closer to 50% understanding the language and 50% paying enough attention to figure out if we are talking about your house and friends house or a house you once visited ten years ago on holiday.

That being said I think it is a beautiful language and the challenges are exciting and interesting. Living here certainly helps my interest, as being able to actually order food rather than pointing and looking hungry is quite a rewarding experience. 

I’m particularly pleased today as I passed my first language test, and I’m now studying harder lessons. So yay for more language but oh dear for the complexities and confusion that is bound to follow. If you are also interested in learning this delightfully challenging language, aside from taking lessons I can really recommend two apps to help you along. First is kanji study. This one helps learn kanji (surprising I know!) as well as teaches you how to write them and gives you a good bulk of vocabulary too. It’s a flashcard style teaching app and quite effective in my opinion.

The other is memrise. This app deals with a few languages but I’ve only tried it for Japanese and I’ve really noticed a jump in my learning since I started using it. It’s fun and simple enough a tool that I actually want to use it every day, and have done so for nearly a month now.

Both apps have a good free to use section, but have the option to pay for more features. I’m still on the free versions but would not consider it a waste of money when I’m done with those to upgrade to the full versions. (This is not a sponsored review, I really do just like them.)

That’s all from me this week, happy learning!