Our pastor’s wife Eri is teaching me Japanese! The first thing she says I need to do is learn to read it, which is exactly the thing I thought I’d NEVER even attempt! Mind you, that there are three sets of characters you have to know in order to be literate in Japanese–Kanji, which is those intricate Chinese picture characters you probably think of when you think of Japanese or Chinese (also used for most tattoos); Hiragana, which is a phonetic/morphemic alphabet used for native Japanese words; and then there’s Katakana, which is the other phonetic alphabet for foreign words). For someone with very little Japanese vocabulary, Katakana is instantly gratifying to learn because there are so many foreign words sprinkled on signs and ads all over Japan, so when I read a sign in Katakana, it is the equivalent of an English word, and I know what the sign says!!! So against the norm, I am learning Katakana first.
I found this awesome book with mnemonic devices (I’m SUCH a nerd, I know!) to learn kana, and I think I earnestly studied for about 3 hours all together the last couple weeks, and I’ve nearly mastered it. Two weeks! If I had known it was this easy, I would have started a lot sooner. It just looks so FOREIGN and intimidating. But it’s actually not that hard!! Really!!
And suddenly I see! The whole world looks different out there, and I can’t stop trying to read every sign I pass, causing me to drive a bit erratically, slowing down spontaneously just to give myself time to process a sign. My first word was “tenisu” (tennis) on the back of a bus and if I hadn’t been driving, I would have been jumping up and down, I was so excited. We’ve been here for 4 and a half years, so it’s a little embarrassing to me actually that I’m just now really starting. But better late than never, right?
One really funny thing I’ve learned is that Claire’s name translates into KU-RE-A. It’s three syllables in Japanese, and sounds a whole lot like Korea. And Keith’s name is Ki-i-su, which sounds a LOT like kiss in Japanese. Awesome!
It’s been a long time since so many neurons were firing around in my brain! Whew!!