culture

Restarted Japanese language study.

Yes, that’s right. I finally got around to attempting to read in Spanish, again, when I realized that the cultural content of what I’m reading differs between languages. Without getting too personal as to what I read and why I decided to stray from Spanish and get back to Japanese…well, let’s say that Japanese is, culturally speaking, less foreign to me. I have more personal use for it.

Plus, there’s the whole race + gender thing (which makes reading in a colonial language emotionally hazardous to me). And the religion thing. One of the things I appreciated about Japanese at the beginning is that it allows one to claim their own gender, as versus having it simply projected onto one by others. Of course, that doesn’t say anything about what happens to openly non-cisgender, non-heteronormative people in Japan. Do I want to get into studying that? Or do I already know?

The basic reason for learning Spanish, for me, is that I’ve sunk a lot of time into it, already, and I may need a Western European language if I want to be a mainstream Academic Librarian (as versus an East Asian Studies Librarian). But hey, who said marginalized was worse, right?

Ehhh…

In any case…I’m getting back into it. I’ve realized that learning Japanese is like learning any other non-mainstream language. Like if I was from any other small Asian country, and wanted to learn the language of my family and heritage…which most of the rest of the U.S. doesn’t care about.

I blew through a couple of course segments last night, and feel set to continue on this way (maybe setting a time for study), especially now that I know I have decided to forgo Spanish. Also — I’ve actually gotten into new vocabulary now (as versus review), and counters aren’t as bad as I thought.

“Counters”…they’re bits of words that modify the pronunciation of what is being counted. They’re prolific in Japanese, and the major reason I backed off, a while ago.

Well, besides kanji.

I can just say — I’m glad I didn’t throw out all my textbooks. Though I have no idea where my Japanese-English dictionary went…

art, technology

Solving technical difficulties

I had almost forgotten about those text-only posts about the drawing inks and watercolors! Well…let’s see. I do work over the weekend, but midweek I might have time for playing with this, some more. The drawback to posting (color) scans is that I have to use a machine with which I’m not highly familiar.

Then there’s the fact that I trained on Photoshop, but don’t want to pay $20/month to have permission to use it. I think I mentioned somewhere a while ago (maybe on a defunct blog) that I had been using PS Elements — until some update made it suddenly stop working. Was that intentional? I don’t know. But it didn’t make Adobe look good.

Of course, this is part of a long argument propounded by former Photoshop users. There are other solutions, but they take retraining, and their UX is often not as intuitive. Then there’s the fact that Adobe has probably made strides to make sure they get into the classrooms.

I do have half a mind to hook up my drawing tablet again. I took it off for my own reasons, but it reminds me that there are alternatives to Adobe. Not necessarily all open-source…not that open-source is bad, but I wonder what else is out there.

Having worked with watercolor paints recently made me realize something: one of my earlier instructors who was a Digital Illustrator, was right in that he said that digital art was made to emulate physical media, but it wasn’t a replacement for it. I haven’t been through all the art programs out there, but I wonder if anyone has replicated the blossoming of color that happens with good watercolor paint, in wet-in-wet painting. I bet someone has (it’s probably on a Mac, though).

Of course, if I’m photo-editing, I can probably do that better on the computer than in the darkroom (particularly because I don’t know how to process film, and the thought of developing photos has always put me a little on edge).

There is the possibility of getting a Mac tablet and Apple Pencil…but it’s seriously a lot of money. I mean, I’d have to work out a plan and timetable to save up for the thing, and I don’t even know if I’d like it. I guess that’s why there are Apple Stores.

Of course…if I’m going to do that, I could save up for a Mac first, and if I don’t like how the Apple Pencil works upon trying it out, I can apply the savings to a Cintiq. The price has gone down since I last checked.

(Really, Haru? You’re really entertaining this?)

Then there’s this stuff about scanning or photography.

This is kind of too much to think about, right now. I have, however, located a couple of models which would work…the question is…is it that important to me.

That depends on how much time I actually spend making artwork. It hasn’t been much, recently. If, however, I spent as much time painting as I did writing — trying to work on it every day, you know — that…that would be great.

And yes, I do need to give myself permission to make my life not all about my career. Though there is the possibility, I found yesterday…of helping to run the art displays at one or more libraries, which would give me valuable experience if I wanted to work in or run a gallery (and thus get back into the visual art world). It wouldn’t pay — it’s a volunteer position. But still…that’s really interesting, you know?

There is more I have to say about…languages. I realized the other night that while I may have been taught the basic mechanics of Spanish language, no one ever really encouraged me to do any recreational reading in Spanish, or to use the language outside the classroom. That (and the missionary angle of most of my teachers) has very obviously impacted my regard for it.

Also — I’ve realized that if I learn Spanish instead of Japanese — this would give me much more time to work on my Art. (I’ve also realized that the evangelical pamphlet that someone donated the other day, was likely written to be easy to read. I found a book by Neil Gaiman in the Spanish Children’s section the other day, which I couldn’t well read. I could read it well enough to know that it was likely disturbing.) ;)

Relearning Spanish also doesn’t mean that I won’t ever learn Japanese.

Anyway…it’s almost midnight, and I’ve got an early morning, tomorrow. More has happened…but I should get some rest.

art, libraries, organization, self care

Priorities, Version 2

This is written in continuation of a prior post from November 1 about current priorities as regards my time and resources.

I’m thinking it may be of use to identify where current evidence suggests my priorities lie, prior to describing where I wish my priorities lay; and a map of how to get from one state, to the other.

  1. Work
  2. Writing
  3. Reading (in English)
  4. Organization
  5. Watercolors
  6. Rest

There are three possibilities I can see coming up which may compete for resources:

  • Driving lessons and practice
  • Ceramics classes/studio time (to start in Spring)
  • Silversmithing classes/studio time (to start in Summer)

I don’t see work reducing in priority too much, but learning to drive will likely cut into that. It’s a skill I need to know which is way overdue. Writing also will likely not reduce too much in priority. I’d like to read more. My focus on organization will likely slow down as things…you know, get organized. I’ve wanted to work on watercolors, more; I’ve also found someone giving free watercolor classes. And rest, well…that will come up as I get exposed to pathogens.

I haven’t been engaging Japanese language study pretty much at all, recently, which makes practice in writing…well…practicing writing wrong. Though I did today, out of nowhere, recall the kanji for “hand”: 手

There is also study for essentially Professional Development which I left off on, and should get back to: particularly, in Reader’s Advisory, Virtual Reference, and Online Searching. After that is done, it would help to start looking at materials for how to conduct Library programs.

I’m thinking the priority schedule will start to look something like this:

  1. Work
  2. Driving lessons and practice
  3. Reader’s Advisory study
  4. Writing (Art experiences, sexuality + gender)
  5. Reading (in English)
  6. Watercolor

I still want to add in Ceramics. I believe this will take time away from work, as my work schedule is likely to be more flexible than the Lab schedule. As the Spring quarter starts, my priorities may look more like this:

  1. Work
  2. Driving practice
  3. Writing
  4. Ceramics
  5. Watercolor

…and that’s mostly because I find I write more meaningfully when I don’t push myself to write. Watercolor may actually fall away if I’m also dealing with Ceramics.

You’ll notice “studying Japanese language” is missing. I’m just not sure where to put it:

  1. Work
  2. Driving practice
  3. Writing
  4. Ceramics
  5. Reading (in English)
  6. nihongo wo benkyou suru (studying Japanese language)
  7. Watercolor

I still feel kinda torn about the Spanish thing.

The other day, someone dropped off a pamphlet in Spanish that I could read well enough to know that it was an evangelical text. While I was happy to be able to decipher this (four years of programming was not wasted), the fact is, my being able to read an evangelical text is not a personal benefit.

Before I read Adolfo Best-Maugard’s A Method for Creative Design (originally composed in Spanish), which in turn was recommended by a teacher of mine (I’m pretty sure I know how she identifies, but I don’t know that I can write the term on wordpress.com — those of you who know what I’m talking about, know), there was nothing I was motivated to read in Spanish language. (I did, however, find an interesting Reference book on Latin American Literature in a nearby library, which piqued my interest.) I suppose that this would be a disappointment to my middle school and high school Spanish teachers, but the fact is that no one exposed us to books in Spanish, other than our textbooks. If my memory’s correct, we might have even read Pablo Neruda in English class, not Spanish — though that sounds too ridiculous to be accurate. I hope it’s not accurate.

I’m trying not to get into politics or religion, at the moment. Though español brings up issues with both, really strongly, and really negatively, for me. In a lot of ways.

If I were only going to use it within the U.S., that would be one thing…but I would expect relations with Latin America to be on the rocks right now.

The problematic parallel to rigidly gendered nouns in Spanish language is the hierarchy inherent to Japanese language. The way one person addresses another, or refers to oneself in context with that other, is dependent on the hierarchical relation between them. Though, I’ve mostly encountered respectful people when I have engaged with people in Japanese-American society. (Kids and teens, when I was the same age, don’t count.)

I guess if I want to see if it’s worth it to learn Spanish, I could reach out and start reading some kids’ materials, or something…I’ve heard that it isn’t best to try and learn multiple languages at the same time.

Just…I don’t want to have wasted those four years! And I’m so close!

It’s also more practical…

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.