Sunday, September 18, 2011

Stray Dog

Since I am getting blog error codes on the set-up portion of my site, I will just give a brief hello here. My name is Julie and I am heading into my true mid life, I think. I began learning Japanese two years ago when my son began studying the language for his black belt test in Yoshukai Karate. We hired a tutor to help him (and my daughter was interested too) and the three of us spent a summer learning hiragana, katakana and a few basic phrases.

To be honest, this all came about at a time I was contemplating divorcing my husband, so maybe my falling head long into learning the language was as close to a "love affair" as I was going to get and a true escape.

Japanese wasn't ever a language I was interested in, and I had studied fairly seriously a number of other languages: German (6 years), Italian (1 year) Spanish (2 years) and American Sign language (2 years). I also did a stint in Swedish and French, but i think those were "boyfriend related" so didn't stick!

In fact, Japan was never a country that was on my list! I'm not sure why this is true. I loved travel and spent a lot of time in France, England, Italy, Spain, Germany, Sweden, Denmark as a young student.

But something clicked with me while helping my son and once he learned what he needed to know for his written exam, I kept going, fell in love with Nihongo -- and 9 months later we were all in Japan together for spring vacation.

This sounds like a "birth" story, and maybe it was for me in a way. A re-birth story of sorts. Arriving in Japan was truly a dream ... I wanted to learn about and be a part of their culture in a way I had never experienced before with any other language or country. I also knew that taking on Japanese as I head towards 50 was maybe not going to be the easiest mid-life crises swerve in the road I could take (like maybe I should just dye my hair blonde and go lease a red convertable mustang instead until this all passes?) however, it feels less and less like a passionate affair and more and more like a real longterm commitment. I think I know the difference by now.

So this is the beginning of this blog. I hope you like it and will contribute your own thoughts and stories about how you got started learning Japanese and why. Any cultural, travel, or random thoughts on learning the language, or tidbits about the language itself will be fun for all to read, so please share!

(For instance this thought occurred to me at the beginning of my most of my work books and also my language instruction via tutor, one of the first verbs you learn is the verb "to die." "Shinu." And oddly enough, it takes many chapters, (disks, if you're learning on tape) or classes before the word for "why?" is taught (Doshite).

I find that interesting and my interpretation of that is embeded in the culture. The Samurai and Ninjitsu mentality is still very alive in Japan, which means that death is a constant subcontext to their culture (as opposed to America where eternal youth and long life seems to be ours). And in a society that prizes working together as a whole as opposed to individualism, the word "why?" does not come up often and is not encouraged. "Why" is clearly a very real step out of the collective circle of accepted authority or "in the box" thinking. It doesn't surprise me that you have to wait until your second year of study to even learn how to say the word!

I titled this post Stray Dog because I just spent the entire evening watching 'Stray Dog" - the Akira Kurosawa film starring my favorite, Toshiro Mifune-sama. What a wonder!

I hope you visit this site often! I would love to hear your thoughts, not just about what I am writing, but your own stories as well.

Kitsukete Kudasai! (Take care of yourself please!)


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