organization, personal, work

Languages and migration: a.k.a. Too much free time

As of last Friday, I completed my initial three weeks of full-time training. I went in to work one time this week to be signed off. Other than that, I haven’t been practicing. I’m kind of scared that I’m going to lose some of what I’ve learned…though a few days on desk for the amount of time I have experienced on a daily basis, should kick that right back in, for me.

I could also be reviewing my notes, from those last three weeks. Even with my attempt to write down only that which I did not know or recall, I filled up enough pages that I had to buy a bigger binder. Don’t worry, it’s done…and apparently a Kokuyo 20-hole binder for A5 paper will also fit Maruman 20-hole A5 paper. Don’t quote me on that, though.

Right now we have a guest, which has me thinking on the actuality of the possibility of taking a job nearer to them. This has caused me to remember plans for joining them, and the potential relevance of my learning Japanese language. It’s almost useless where I am now, but would be used daily at the place to which we’re considering moving.

So…this week has given me the opportunity to check out what I actually will want to do for the foreseeable future. Let’s say the next 5 years. This would impact me especially where it comes to furthering my acquisition of a second language. I have a choice between español (Spanish) or nihongo (Japanese), for a language I would have a head start in picking up. Which I choose, depends on where I expect myself to be in the future.

Based on my experience in learning Spanish language in middle and high school…I would say that most of my discouragement in learning the language, aside from a certain integral component (the fact that all nouns have a gender, which profoundly impacts me as a person who now considers themselves gender-nonbinary), has been in not wanting to be like my teachers. That sounds kind of harsh, but in my experience (in three out of five teachers — and one of the other two teachers was a native speaker, until he got fired) there was definitely a certain type of person — in my school district — who became a Spanish-language teacher.

Nor am I really confident in my Spanish-language skills. But I know enough so that when I start to read something written in Spanish language, I can get the gist of what’s meant. My major difficulty is then with vocabulary. There is also the point that the people I’ve known who have natively spoken Spanish, have been a lot more down-to-earth than my past teachers.

It wasn’t quite until I began reading things in English that looked like they had originally been written for Spanish speakers, that I started to take interest in the language again (I had originally chosen Spanish over French because it was more widely applicable in the Americas; these two languages were the only two I had access to in my regular public school setting). Then there is the issue of International Relations which are just being trashed with Latin America right now…it wasn’t great to be estadounidense in Central and South America before: I don’t expect it to be easier, now.

On the other hand — with Japanese language…the biggest barriers are now 1) kanji (Chinese characters integrated into Japanese writing), which I have not systematically studied; 2) counters; and, 3) practice partners. Apparently, as there is such a shortage of sounds within nihongo itself, differing counters are appended to differing types of objects being counted, in order to tell what the number applies to. There’s that, and the fact that the pronunciation of a number changes, depending on the counter paired with it.

This comes up early…which kind of makes me fear that people in Japan test foreigners by asking them to count things appropriately. (Counting things in a basic way is understandable, but generally only done by small children.) That, in turn…doesn’t have me thinking that nihonjin (Japanese-from-Japan) are really welcoming to foreigners. There’s that, in addition to the fact that I’ve lived the experience of a hapa (mixed-race) nikkeijin (Japanese-of-foreign-birth)…and have experienced issues with racism from within my own family, ostensibly caused by the race of my non-Japanese parent. I say, “ostensibly,” because no minority brings the experience of racism upon themselves. Others visit it upon them, whatever their excuse.

Having said that, I’ve also experienced racial tensions all through my life in University…so I suppose it may come with the package of this rebirth.

The issue for me — when I was taking Japanese-language classes — was the bizarreness factor of being in class with a bunch of anime (Japanese animation) and J-pop (Japanese pop music) fans who just wanted to understand their lyrics or lines…and myself, who wanted to know more about my heritage, and what had helped give form to me.

In short, my drive to learn nihongo, early on, was a drive to understand more about myself and my social, cultural, and historical context. I knew I did like Japanese pop culture (and appreciated what of Japanese culture I did participate in due to family influence), but I didn’t know why. I have a lot more of a clue about that, at this time.

I just can’t see giving up Japanese language study for Spanish, just because Spanish is easier (being closer to English). Spanish would give me a better window into European cultures and American Indigenous cultures…the thing is, I’m not heavily interested in European cultures, compared to my interest in China, Japan, Korea, or Tibet. (I don’t know much about Southeast Asia at this point, but I can see myself curious about that, once I get a baseline understanding of the more northerly territories. There’s also Polynesia, though French may be of more use, there.)

Finding information on American Indigenous cultures is so far from my present capability that I really don’t know how long it will be before I can even source words from the people I want to hear from, or tell whether it would be recorded en español or in their specific native languages. I suppose it makes sense that I would be more interested in regions connected to my diaspora.

Anyhow. I…have restarted my nihongo practice via my library. I can work through the 12 classes, and then see where I am. After all, it’s not like the español knowledge is just going to evaporate. It has hung around for two decades, after all.

And Japanese is so beautiful when written. It just will take some practice to learn. And I have time.

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