I recently had to re-prioritize my life. And by recently, I mean yesterday. I had decided I was going to take on the world. I, previously, had been working on two stories (not for publishing but my own enjoyment and practice). One is over 20,000 words long, the other around 10,000 and both slowly, slowly working their way to completness but I can see either of them getting there this side of 50,000 words. On top of that, I’m supposed to be studying Japanese on my own at home. I work. I’m a full time student–History and English Major. I work at Renaissance Festivals as a street performer and in stage shows which includes lots of rehearsal and entire weekends of nothing else. I’m trying to get to Japan for a study abroad and I have a blog. On top of this, include my passive me-time: book reading, fanfiction, and I recently started watching Jdramas again (though not in huge quantities).
Please note: This is not a “OMG! I SO BUSY FEEL BAD FOR ME!!!!!” post. Because that would be silly. If I was ‘so busy’ I wouldn’t be writing this. Frankly, all of the above was more than manageable. I managed to balance all of that and the regular hum drum laundry-cleaning-chores things with no problems. Which is kind of a lie–Studying Japanese on my own (as in: not for class) fell a bit to the way side. That had nothing to do being too busy–just me not prioritizing.
So yeah: I had stuff but I was okay. Recently though, I decided I was going to start doing other things. November is NaNoWriMo, or for those who don’t know what that is: National Novel Writing Month where you attempt to write 50,000 words of a novel during the month of November. So yeah, 50,000 words? Sure, lets go. I signed up with the intention of starting a brand new story! I also decided maybe I’d up my hours at work and take some babysitting jobs to help pay for Japan and some other things that cost money. There were a couple of other things as well.
Any way, yesterday, while lying in bed, I realized that I was setting myself up for disaster. Not only were things already slipping through the cracks due to lack of motivation but my plate was already full (manageable but full). All these extra things had to go. I canceled my NaNoWriMo and got rid of the extra things. Instead, I’ve decided to get back on track with my self study of Japanese.
So far, speaking is my strongest area. Listening to naturally spoken Japanese is hard for me. I pick out some words but not others and it takes me awhile to piece together what I’m hearing. Reading and writing are both strong (in hiragana) but then again, they aren’t really the areas I’m worried about until I start learning more kanji.
I know its odd for a beginner to be comfortable with speaking… Normally it is the hardest part. Please note though: I’m only comfortable with what we’ve learned so far. So far, the grammar isn’t throwing me for loops, I’m friendly with particles, and I’m just generally a confident oral person. Speaking has always been one of my skills. I’ve acted (I’m a paid street performer who speaks in Shakespearean modern English!) and I’ve always been comfortable with public speaking–Hell, in Kindergarten, I was picked to be one of the MCs for our talent show and when my partner MC forgot his line, I pushed him off the stage (as in, into the wings… not off the front–I was pushy but not a bitch!) and took the mic and finished the show by myself. So yeah. Speaking is something I’m comfortable with and I’m not afraid to make a fool of myself. Its all a learning experience.
Sadly, what I can say is very limited. Once school started, I pretty much was sticking with my classwork and stopped self studying so my vocabulary is limited to what we are learning in class which revolves around telling people specific things: Self Introductions — What you do. Your name. Where you are from. How many people are in your family. Your school/major/hobbies. And daily routines: What time do you get up/go to school/where you do these things/how many times a week/times. I am intuitive enough to improvise a bit using common sense and patterns I’ve already observed but it only takes you so far. If you don’t know a noun or verb then you just can’t say it.
I have about 8-ish months from the estimated departure of my sensei’s summer program to Fukuoka which will lead straight into what ever semester program I am doing. There is no way I will magically become fluent in that time period. I’m not expecting to/it isn’t a goal. Half the reason I want to go on this trip is to become comfortable with conversation–maybe not fluent in legal or really technical Japanese but every day conversational. More than anything, this means I need to up my vocabulary.
I’ve decided that I’d like to learn vocabulary through Kanji as quickly as possible. For the moment, its been primarily through hiragana and katakana but I think the sooner I can start putting some serious amounts of kanji under my belt and learning vocab with them, the better. Conversational Japanese is great but if I’m alone somewhere, I’d like to be able to read directions.
As far as tackling kanji goes, I think I’m going to use WaniKani, the kanji learning website/program developed by the Tofugu guys who also brought you Textfugu. I’ve heard good things about it and I really don’t love Anki so I’d like to try something different.
As far as listening comprehension goes, I’m going to try get my hands on some Japanese kids shows/movies. Something with a simpler vocab base. I watch tons of Jdramas and I’m casually watching an anime for the first time in… over two years?? Eek, thats kind of scary.
So yeah. Studying Japanese is going to become more important/more of a priority. First thing, though? Setting some concrete goals for myself regarding my learning. But that is another post for another day!