Learning a new language can be an arduous journey.
Well, at least for me it is.
Sometimes reading online and learning that some people just could take up a language so easily, or in my case, passing the JLPT 1 so easily.. Just disheartened me from learning.
My journey in learning this language is a love-hate relationship. First came the love, then the hate. Well, I assume it’s actually quite a norm for most people… I guess?
The same old story from the trend of listening to J-Pop, blah, blah, leads to my interest in learning this new language. In the beginning, it was fun. Learning all the hiragana, katakana, to Watashi wa nani nani… Just writing those weird cursive character just kind of excites me. Or used to… But not so much when the journey lead to taking JLPT. I suck at exam, and I still do. Anything about examination just basically stresses me out so badly, sometimes I still have had nightmare about not studying for examination and all. I just freaked out.
I learned Japanese when I was about 17 years old, continued taking up part-time lessons for about 2 or 3 years. The in-between was nothing but blurred memory. However, I do recall that I stopped learning after entering university (and I just passed my JLPT 2 by mugging for 1 whole week). And I probably went back to take lesson after joining a Japanese company. Thinking back, my Japanese level is actually pretty elementary. I just learn how to read, maybe write a little, but conversational-wise, zilch. Gawd. I could not believe I was so courageous to apply for JLPT 1. So that was why I failed every time I took the paper. Well, I probably did not study hard. The fact was, I did not realized I was not applying anything to what I learned. Or I did not really learned anything. I just mugged for examination, and I assumed I could do the same for JLPT 1. So after failing for 2 or 3 times in Singapore, I kind of gave up taking JLPT 1.
However the ultimatum came when I had to move to Japan. I was in many ways, culturally-shocked. I thought I knew about Japanese culture, I really thought I did. Travelling is so simple, but living is just a totally different story. Not to mention, a foreign language to say the least. I was devastated. I felt Japanese were so ‘cold’ towards foreigners, they just put a facade everywhere they go. Anyway, I do not want to the details of self-denial.
To learn a new language is hard, to learn how to speak like them (not there yet, probably not in the near future) is even harder.
It all boils down to one thing, environment.
Stage 1: Living in Japan
In Japan, Japanese just speak Japanese. Unless you stick forever with your foreign counterparts (whom I had heard of some do not speak even living in Japan for years. Well, there are exception. shrugs).
Stage 2: Studying in Japan
Many foreigners choose to study Japanese in Japan, to have a taste of ryugakusei in Japan. That’s good if you are studying in a university, not so much if you just choose to study in a language school. There are exceptions of course, but trust me, if you are just a student with no working experience (unless you are A. a software engineer B. an English teacher) then it will be pretty tough to find a job in Japan with limited Japanese skills.
Stage 3: Working in Japan (in a Japanese company)
The media would have portray the stereotypical Japanese company. Overwork, karoshi (overworked till death), weird ethics and so on. It’s true on the weird part, but not so much for overwork anymore. At least not the company I am working for. And the younger generation of Japanese are basically a much more “sane” and “flexible” bunch. No one really wants to work for just one company f-o-r-e-v-e-r. Right?
Stage 4: Find a partner in Japan, maybe?
If you like to stay in Japan for a long time, either you can be a highly-skilled worker (it will be easier to get the PR) or married a Japanese.
Well, basically that’s very much the general idea of mastering Japanese. Mix with Japanese, talk to Japanese, eventually the language just come to you (not really to me yet). I am still very much dependent on Google translate. And when I am frustrated or stressed, the first thing I spewed profanity is still the f-word or some random English or Singlish.
All in all, the journey is never ending for learning, until the day we bade farewell to this world. Have fun learning Japanese.