Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Turning Japanese (or not)

So in order to keep ahead (hopefully) of the burgeoning register as well as any tightening in hiring over the next year, I've decided to dust off my Japanese. I was a Japanese Literature major in college (shockingly, not a very useful degree in the real world), and spent over four years living and working in Japan doing translation and interpretation work for local municipal governments in a very rural prefecture. My daily use of the language ended about 12 years ago when I came back to the States to go to law school. I always planned on getting a law job back in Japan, or something on the West Coast where I could use my Japanese; but life didn't work out that way.

Other than the occasional request for some on the fly translation, I haven't really used my Japanese in the last 12 years. And boy that rustiness showed when I went to my first language lesson with a tutor here in town. Strangely, it became pretty clear that the language is still in my brain - it's just locked away. I found myself shakily able to converse with my instructor, but half the time the English part of my brain had no idea what the Japanese side of my brain was saying.

It's really sad, I'm not a (huge) braggart, but my Japanese skillz were off the hook in the day. So much so that I actually received an Asian-Pacific Islander scholarship to go to the University of Hawaii for law school - and as you might be able to tell from pictures of my girls, the only thing about me that is Asian/Pacific Islander is...well nothing, really.

Anyhow, there is some good news. My reading ability is still fairly strong, as I was able to read a couple of newspaper articles without too much pain. And my instructor has told me that she thinks I'm on a comparable level to another student who just returned from Japan after living there for 5 years - although that comparison is certainly based on my reading rather than speaking ability.

So I am buckling down. I'm planning on taking 2-3 hours of classes with the instructor a week; as well as seeing if I can set something up via Skype with this language school for extra speaking practice. With luck, I hope to be ready to take the language test at the end of August.


Bfiles said...

good for you! wow, sounds like your japanese was amazing. I, too, couldn't believe how rusty I was during my first Spanish lesson, but it was amazing how quickly the advanced language came back to me. Sounds like it will be the same for you, despite the lack of use over 12 yrs. You obviously had a high command of the language! Good luck!

Melissa V said...

I think you'll definitely be ready in August. I can't emphasize enough how much regular phone conversations helped me (in addition to a weekly conversation class), so your skype plan should definitely help you.

Have you scheduled your test yet? When they scheduled me it was several weeks out - so do it now if you haven't already.

Let us know how it goes - ganbare!

Bfiles said...

and if you have a commute, don't do what I did and schedule it for 9am! I couldn't leave home any earlier and I was just praying for no subway delays (or traffic jams!)!

Destinaish Unknown said...

Aahhh soudesuneeeee!!

Watashi wa chotto Nihongo ga wakarimasu...


And that's the extent of what 4 years of Japanese language classes will teach you! I can still read limited romaji though. Kanji ga wakarimasen...

fsowannabe said...

Thanks for the well-wishes (and the advice, Melissa, I'll schedule my appt asap).

Destinaish - I'm sure you know more than that! Issho ni Benkyou-shimashou!