Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Coping With Nihongo

I have been here in Japan for a year now... In that one year, I still cannot understand Nihonggo. Well, I can understand some words and VERY common phrases like Ohayo gosaimasu, konnichiwa, konbanwa, arigatou, and omedetou to name a few, but make a Japanese talk to me and I will just stare at them with a clueless look on my face and a small apologetic smile and say, "Gomenasai, nihonggo wakaranai!" (I`m sorry, I don`t understand Nihonggo!) Funny! I`m saying that I don`t understand the language in Japanese.But kidding aside, it has always been my struggle. Why?There was this one time when I had to buy some groceries by myself because I ran out of shampoo on a weekday. I went to rush to the grocery store to buy one. Unable to read Katakana, the Japanese way of writing foreign and borrowed words, I just browsed through the shelves and looked for familiar shampoo brand names like Pantene, Lux, Vidal Sassoon... and just picked one that I liked. I paid the cashier and went home. And we used that shampoo for a while. Then one day, my husband wondered why his hair is not soft and silky anymore. He checked on the label and realized that we have been using liquid body soap for shampoo for like days! He mentioned the mistake to me and we laughed ourselves crazy! Of course, I was embarassed with what happened. From that time on, I vowed to learn how to read Katakana. Oh, I can read alright, but with a preschoolers reading skills. Heck, a preschooler might even be better than me.. Hehe!

There was this another instance when I had to take a taxi because I have so many things to carry and walking from the train station to our home is not a good idea. Mustering up enough courage, I went to the waiting taxi, got inside and showed him my mobile phone for the address and asked him to take me there. Of course, the driver was a little annoyed because I can`t understand what he`s saying but I was able to go home safely that day. Whew! That was a relief. But it would be better if one can make small talk, right?

Of course, I am trying to learn the language. I even attended a Japanese language class last year given by two kind-hearted Japanese ladies who speak English so well. There were only two of us attending the class. The other one was Rajani, an Indian who is now pregnant and going back to India this month. The lessons were free and we met every Tuesday. So you can say that it`s a Tuesdays with Yoko and Noriko. The lessons went well. I can count in Japanese well already. And the grammar and vocabulary drills were particularly helpful. But I skipped some classes because I was still pregnant at that time and the winter season just made it impossible for me to go out. The funny thing with the Japanese language class though is that after our lessons, we go back to speaking in English. So, the lessons learned for the day were not really put into practical use.

And I have one more dilemma. It`s when Sam begins going to school. Of course, everybody will be speaking in Nihonggo and as we all know, children have the greater capacity to learn new things at a great speed compared to older people. And that`s when my problem comes in. I would not like it if she would converse with me in Japanese because by then, we would not understand each other. And just thinking about those parents and teachers meeting scare me!

So how do I cope? I browse Japanese websites and try to read the contents. And if I cannot read them, especially the difficult Kanji (Chinese characters), I just translate them using excite(dot)co(dot)jp. Also, I watch anime. Naruto, Dragon Ball, Samurai X, Pokemon - all those famous Japanese anime - just so I could familiar myself with the accent and the pronunciation and the expressions. And I get to catch a few words.. And there`s always the handy Nihonggo books and of course the world wide web. Perhaps, if I am too desperate, I might require my husband to speak to me in Nihonggo, which I think will never happen.

I am just taking it easy though and not that seriously because I am confident that I have a husband to translate for me. He said that I don`t have to pressure myself because the moment I start doing that, it will be more difficult for me to learn it. So I guess I should learn the language slowly but surely from this day on. No more procrastinating. Because tomorrow might be too late.

1 comment:

thebeadedlily said...

:( Keep on keeping on they say! Learning another language is never easy.

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