Saturday, September 8, 2012

Japanese Immersion Study, at last!

Hattori Foundation LogoAichi Center
for Japanese Studies

The Yamasa Institute, Okazaki, Japan
Innovative, International & Non Profit
It's been awhile since I've blogged, but I thought I better start up again since I'm going to Japan at the end of September to study for three weeks...

I learned about the Yamasa Institute way back in 2009, when I was heavily researching my first trip to Japan.  I was on Trip Advisor's Japan Forum almost daily, messaging back and forth with Japan "experts" and figuring out our lengthy trip.  One of the posts from someone else asked the forum about Japanese language schools and one fellow had a good amount of info on one in particular, Yamasa.  I have been dreaming of going to study there for two years, and finally I'm making it happen!

Yamasa has two campuses, in in Okazaki and one in Sapporo.  The campus in Sapporo is mainly for more advanced students and not very close to Tokyo, so I opted for the other campus.  They actually own their own apartments and dorms too so finding accommodation is not a hassle at all, as it would be in Tokyo, Kyoto or Osaka.  The funny thing is that the institute is run by a renaissance man named Declan Murphy! I have been studying their website for over a year now and as far as I can tell from website and Facebook page, it is a very successful language institute with lots of people from all over the world coming to study.  I was shocked to learn that it's not run by a Japanese director, but there you have it!

I wrote back in March that I was going to start studying every day.   That hasn't really happened, but I have gotten it up to three days a week - which for my busy life has been about as much as I could handle.  I've finally made it through the first Genki I study book, the equivalent of one year of College Japanese.  I am picking up Kanji pretty quickly now too and have learned NOT TO BE AFRAID of it!   I think Kanji study happens when you're ready for it, and not before.  I really couldn't handle starting to practice it at all until recently when I discovered the same thing I discovered for Hiragana and Katakana, which is that it's actually quite fun.

The daunting thing about it is that you feel like you're just never going to fucking get it.  Never.  As soon as I could stop my mind from trying to be an expert at it (and therefore feeling like I was failing)  I just relaxed and took it one kanji at a time.  I will probably never learn all 2000 or so standard kanji.  But just learning a handful a month, totally doable.  The way I see it, I was frustrated with having to learn radicals and how was i ever going to get it or "see it."  Well it turns out my mind has its own way of remembering that has nothing to do with learning the radicals.  It's just that each kanji has a little story of my own making behind it and that's how i do it.  I do see that there are kanji within kanji and the kanji I know within the other begins to make a little sense why it's there.  But it doesn't matter.  For me, it's the story created by each pictogram.  And then, it gets fun.  But that's just me.

 I have never been a math person so trying to get me to understand kanji by making it like arithmetic (this radical plus this radical equals this word) just baffled me.  But if each kanji is a picture of something that I make up - then I get it.  Like the kanji for person is 人. Ugh, my computer doesn't do it exactly right, but that right stroke is a little more reaching forward then the left stroke and to me, it looks like a person walking stridently forward.  Or car is  車 (well, it's actually 車の中) but that first kanji looks just like a little cart if you were looking at it from directly above, with the two wheels on the top and bottom and the little seat in the middle.  To me.  飲む is to drink and doesn't the first kanji look like a guy walking into a door way?  Probably a salary man on his way to get a beer after work!

Ok, so you see how it's been going!

I still am having a difficult time with short form past tense, does this trip up anyone else?  There are some things that just don't stick!  Let me know how your practice has been going!

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