Author Topic: With a PhD and a degree from Oxbridge I am sure Japanese is easy to learn.  (Read 15633 times)

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laud_shy_girl

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BG I am dyslexic and I find learning languages hard.
I struggle with my own, so putting my mind to learning another just makes me feel really stupid and useless.
 
I am 'for the time being' in Japan, a country with no less than 4 alphabets used commonly. I am trying to learn the most common one and its really slow going. I have learned enough to say 'please and thank you' etc and can get by in restaurants and the supermarket (I have been here for 4 months and have no other contact with the Japanese community around us other than this, as I am not permitted to work.)
I am here for another 5 months as my husband is working here until then.

I did try going to lessons set up through DH work but everyone there is very very clever and learns things a lot faster than me (it goes with their job, all have or are working on PhDs.)
It is taught in a very formal way (so not really just how to say things or conversational Japanese) and everything is written in Hiragana (the one I am trying to learn)
I ended up crying for two days after each class and had a panic attack before my forth lesson. So I haven't been back.
It doesn't help that I really didn't want to come out here in the first place, but I am dealing with the anxiety and depression (that I already suffer from) this has aggravated and I am feeling more in control now.
My question: What do I say to people when they ask if I am doing the classes (all of DH work friends and associates do) or better yet, how should I respond to those people who don't or won't accept “I am trying to learn the basics at home before I go back to class” and start ether giving me “helpful” advice I have heard a million times or get really irate about how I should be doing classes all under the Vail of being helpful (no one has out right said it, but I think they feel I am very rude for coming to this country and not learning the language.) This isn’t a holiday and I did not chose this country. However I am trying to learn at least the basics on my own.

I am trying to be as social as possible with my DH work associates. I am organising party's and dinner's as well as organising outings. I have no one to socialise with apart from these people so avoiding people who are being particularly pedantic about this subject is hard.
To be clear the Japanese people are very understanding. The people who seem to be getting all worked up are the English speakers and one or two non English but non Japanese  people (there are French, German, Italian, polish, Russian and a hole lot more speaking people in the group.)
They are from different University's around the world. The few that are Japanese speak better English than I do and prefer to speak English when in a large group as all meetings are in English (two of the largest country's putting in time money and man power is US and UK. This means I have no opportunity to  speak Japanese beyond what I have learned already

what can I say?

Just so we are clear I do think that people who go to a country assuming people should speak there language are rude. I don't expect anyone to speck English. I take a phrase book with me or plan out what needs said in advance. It just doesn't stay in my head very long.
I actually speak a little German (spent 5 years learning it at school) as such, if we go abroad I try and go to a German speaking country so I can at least order a drink in there language. That and I love Austria.
“For too long, we've assumed that there is a single template for human nature, which is why we diagnose most deviations as disorders. But the reality is that there are many different kinds of minds. And that's a very good thing.” - Jonah Lehrer

jenny_islander

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"I am studying conversational Japanese in a different setting.  Thank you for your interest."

Ms_Shell

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"Thanks for the advice.  I'll take it into consideration."

And don't feel bad - I'm pretty good at picking up foreign languages and Japanese was really slow going for me too.  It's not you - It's just an incredibly complex language!  And like you said, Japanese people tend to be very encouraging to us silly gaijin!  :)   
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Amalthea

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I just want to say congrats for trying to learn.  Japanese is a hard language, even if you really want to learn it.  I had a breakdown two weeks into an intensive study abroad program and started crying in the middle of class when I just couldn't get that day's lesson.

Have you tried "I can't read hiragana well enough for the class yet, but I'm working on it at home" for the people who harass you about going to class?  If the class doesn't actually teach you hiragana first and just throws it all at you at once, all it's going to do it overwhelm you.  I think the beginner Japanese classes at my university teach five hiragana characters a week so it doesn't get so overwhelming.

In all honesty, just a deer in headlights look and "sumimasen" will get you pretty far in Japan.  Most people seem to expect that foreigners will speak no Japanese.

Nurvingiel

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Japanese is really hard. I can count (in only one of the forms of counting) and say thank you and that's about as far as it goes.

My question: What do I say to people when they ask if I am doing the classes (all of DH work friends and associates do) or better yet, how should I respond to those people who don't or won't accept “I am trying to learn the basics at home before I go back to class” and start ether giving me “helpful” advice I have heard a million times or get really irate about how I should be doing classes all under the Vail of being helpful (no one has out right said it, but I think they feel I am very rude for coming to this country and not learning the language.) This isn’t a holiday and I did not chose this country. However I am trying to learn at least the basics on my own.
Bolding mine. What do people say in response to this completely reasonable, logical and polite statement that indicates they don't accept it? I just can't fathom someone disagreeing with this, so it's hard for me to think of a good reply for you. A good catch-all could be "Everyone learns languages differently." And for the helpful advice say at the first opportunity, "I appreciate your help but my system is really working for me."

I can't imagine, though, that people really expect you to learn Japanese in less than a year. I learned basic (and I do mean basic) Swedish in less than a year, but they have the same alphabet (plus three bonus letters) and people in Sweden were always very patient with my attempts to practice. My dorm neighbours even helped me practice (I still can't pronounce the letter "y" though). Various differences in alphabet and culture make Japanese much harder to learn.
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boxy

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Japanese is a very difficult language to learn.  I think you're very brave for even living in Japan!

The previous posters have some great recommendations.  I'd probably say, "I'm enjoying my time here though the language is giving me some trouble which I'm working on, thank you for asking, please pass the bean dip."

laud_shy_girl

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I just want to say congrats for trying to learn.  Japanese is a hard language, even if you really want to learn it.  I had a breakdown two weeks into an intensive study abroad program and started crying in the middle of class when I just couldn't get that day's lesson.

I did that 30 minuets in to my first lesson. I was so embarrassed. after that they dumbed it right down for me. Unfortunately it was still well beyond what I could do and the other people (have I said, really clever) just made it look even easier.

I love "I am studying conversational Japanese in a different setting.  Thank you for your interest." I will SO be using that.
Most people get upset at the learning at home part. They all seem to start in with 'why I can't possible learn it on my own'

I had one person continually interupt with a verity of arguments including "They CAN do conversational Japanese. They CAN do one on one lessons. you HAVE TO GO TO THIS CLASS. The way he was talking, you would think I was putting that class down, rather than saying "I am bad at languages" He was getting quite snippy.
When he stopped to take a drink, I suddenly saw DH calling me over and I had to leave.  >:D

For the most part they are all really nice people, it's just one or two that seem to know "better."

There is also some one who clearly thinks I am dimwitted. She was in the class with me and I really did look dumb, just sitting there, shacking my head and looking lost.  After she came to dinner with a few others and saw me talking literature (I did a Lit and Drama degree, of all things) and eating the food (I made real custard from scratch and Bonoffee upsideown sponge  8)) she backed off.
The look on her face was really funny, She was being all patronsing when she first came in. Then, after I commented on what I would like to write my Masters on (if I ever get the chance and funding) after doing the Postgraduate librarianship course I am applying too, she looked all socked :o and then suddenly started talking to me like a grown up. ;D

I admit to hamming it up a bit, to make the point I am not stupid. My favourite topic to talk about 'other than food' is my fantasy books.

oh and kittens

she still slips and goes in to 'talking to idiot' voice but it's getting better.


Best thing about japan: The cat petting zoo. ;D

“For too long, we've assumed that there is a single template for human nature, which is why we diagnose most deviations as disorders. But the reality is that there are many different kinds of minds. And that's a very good thing.” - Jonah Lehrer

Ms_Shell

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Best thing about japan: The cat petting zoo. ;D

WHAT?  A kitty petting zoo?  I missed that one when I was there!

That's it - I'm calling my host family and asking why they never took me there.   :)

 
"I've never been a millionaire, but I just know I'd be darling at it." - Dorothy Parker

gramma dishes

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BG I am dyslexic and I find learning languages hard.


I'm not at all dyslexic and I find learning languages hard impossible! 

I have a Master's Degree, but thankfully at no time beyond high school was I ever required to even try to learn another language.  But I have tried on my own.  I'm always totally in awe of those people who seem to just "pick it up" as if by osmosis just be being exposed to it.

yokozbornak

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Oops, posted to the wrong thread.

Lady Snowdon

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A person's degree has nothing to do with how easy it is to learn a language.  I tried to learn Spanish for 6 years, 4 in high school and 2 in undergrad.  I can't even conjugate most verbs correctly, let alone come up with correct sentences and vocabulary.  I'm just really bad at learning new languages.  It has nothing to do with intelligence, degrees, or anything like that. 

Kudos to you for attempting to learn something so difficult!  I'm very impressed that you're wanting to continue learning!  As for that rude woman who thinks you're an idiot, just give her an Icy Glare of Death and walk away.  Honestly!  What terrible manners she has.

Ginderette

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I have to admit Japanese is a very challenging language to learn and I'll admit it's 'backwards' in sentence structure then in English - or as I like to think more direct.  :) For instance the phrase "Where is the dog?" Is "Dog, where is it?" (Inu wa doko desuka?) in Japanese. I took Japanese for a bit in High School and it did stump my mother something good when there was a few semesters I  did better in Japanese then I did in English (which is my primary language). Today I'll be honest I don't think I know enough off the top of my head to hold a real conversation or write a letter without hitting my various Japanese/English dictionaries. I'm a nerd.  :D

The kicker about learning a language it seems to me is to have no pressure - nothing really sinks in fast the first time and it takes time to catch on. With too much pressure breakdown is bound to happen and then there goes the thinking that the language can be learned no matter how intelligent someone is.

I am still puzzled how having a PhD and a degree from a prestigious college is suppose to make it easier and find it ironic that the fellow Non-Japanese are the ones that were giving you grief about it. As you pointed out the Japanese are usually flattered that one tries to learn. (Actually coming to think about it, EvilGinderette wouldn't be surprised if they are putting pressure on you to learn Japanese so they don't have to since they're so busy - and don't want to take up the challenge of learning it!)

The kicker may be just having to tell them you're finding a way that works for you - or be more blunt if they're going to be the south end of a north-bound mule about it: It's not up for discussion. It doesn't concern them at all so why does it matter? (Well, save for the fact they may have wanted a free translator. *Stuffs EvilGinderette back in the box*)

My Japanese teacher in middle school learned the language a curious way - he went out to the market and would point at something and say, "Nani desuka?" "What is it?" and they would reply with what it's called in Japanese. Maybe it'd be more fun to learn to put the classroom and the books aside and just learn from the seat of your pants so to speak.  ;)
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laud_shy_girl

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The only reason I mentioned the level of education, was to make the point these people are very clever and tend to pick up languages relatively easily. At least the people here seem to be. as these are all Physicists as well, they are all very logical and can commit things to memory quite easily. I have seen my husband and others learn a computing language over night. I tried learning C++ (a supposedly easy programing language) but it didn't happen.

I am not the brightest (don't get me wrong, I know I am not stupid and I can out do any of them in the common sense department) and these people keep implying its easy.

I did think about having the title " For a logically minded person, who is good at committing large quantities of data to memory in short order and can already speak at least one language, as well as several computting languages, learning Japanese is easy." but it did not flow.  ;D

I have a theory, you have to eather be really good at memorising and logic or have a part of your brain switched on that sees the art and music in a language, alas my muse is MIA and I was severely short changed on Logic at birth.   :-\

I miss my cook books. I want to make Brownies. :( 
 
“For too long, we've assumed that there is a single template for human nature, which is why we diagnose most deviations as disorders. But the reality is that there are many different kinds of minds. And that's a very good thing.” - Jonah Lehrer

veryfluffy

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Okay, I have a PhD and a degree from Oxford, and I would find it pretty well impossible to learn Japanese.

To be honest, if you are there temporarily and are making an effort to get by in your day-to-day activities, and don't have a fundamental fascination with Japanese culture, I'd say that making a major effort to learn the language would be a cracking waste of time, especially if it is that much of a struggle. You don't need to learn to read it or speak it at a more than a basic functional level. It would be very different if you were planning to stay there permanently.

I'd think that if anyone thinks you do need to learn it, you should just feel comfortable setting them straight.  "I tried going to classes -- but I could see that by the time we're packing up to go, I would barely have learned to conjugate the verb "to be". "

   

Twik

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I'm not sure if it's online anywhere, but there's a short story I read as a teen about someone in Japan between the wars, trying to learn Japanese. It's called "An Affix for Birds", and the writer complains that, for some reason to do with Japanese grammar, he could only construct sentences that spoke to, or of, birds. So that one minor slip of the tongue while telling the cab driver to stop at the little stone house on the right made the sentence come out as "Mr. Bird, please stop flying at the little stone aviary on the right". Obviously, the citizens of Tokyo considered this sort of thing just more evidence that westerners were mad.
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