Don’t worry/Sorry, that’s about all the Japanese I’ll use in this post. It means “it’s been awhile”.
Time really flies!
I’m happy that all of you reading this can understand that. That “time flies”. That life seems to pass so swiftly. There are, however, many people that couldn’t understand that without an explanation.
Language often doesn’t make sense. Words have different meanings for different people in different contexts.
One reason why I decided to live in Japan was to improve my ability to use Japanese. Until recently I couldn’t speak Japanese. Still, I am reluctant to say that I can. It feels like a lie.
Growing up monolingual, I never understood the words used to describe language proficiency.
Fluent. Conversational. Business-level.
Just how good do you have to be to fluent? How good do you have to be to say “I can speak Japanese”?
I can speak Japanese.
Finally I know what my second-generation American friends felt when they were reluctant to say that they could speak the language of their parents. It is hard to be confident when you compare yourself to native speakers. To the pinnacle of ability.
While it continues to feel like a lie, I’m comfortable enough to write it in this post.
I’m still not good enough to read my bills. I still can’t quite understand the announcements in the morning meetings held every day at school. The lecture given by an alumni in the assembly a while ago still puzzles me.
But I’m working on it.
Living in Japan is a great opportunity to improve my Japanese. Every day tests me; each day teaches me. Reaching new levels of proficiency is natural. It opens up my world.
I can finally understand what exactly the convenience store clerk is asking me, for example.
I think the most valuable thing I have learned from my language study is that doing is more important than planning. Even if your approach to studying is flawed or inefficient, you can’t progress unless you study. Unless you practice.
This is especially true for things that take a long sustained effort. When the amount of work required seems mountainous, it can be therapeutic just to start hiking.
You’ll figure out the rest as you go along.
Of course there will be stumbles along the way. It’s through those very experiences that we can learn to climb more effectively.
You can only learn to speak Japanese by trying and making mistakes. There is no sense in only producing perfect Japanese, because then you’ll never climb the mountain.
The same goes for this blog. I’m done worrying if each post will be interesting or insightful. It just stifles me.
So I’m going to let this post out.