Author Topic: With a PhD and a degree from Oxbridge I am sure Japanese is easy to learn.  (Read 15895 times)

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lisat

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 ;D

TheMidnightSkulker

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I have a PhD (well, not really, but I got a certificate in Assertiveness made out to "Dr Skulker" so I'm just going to tippex out the subject line and tell people I've got a PhD) and TWO degrees from Oxbridge, one of which is in really hard languages like Russian.

If I were in your situation, I would be crying from the moment I woke up until the moment I went to bed.

All I can suggest is that you say, "alas, I'm not good at languages" and bean dip, or "I've found a method of study and am progressing with it" and bean dip. If people can't take a hint, well, I would find that very upsetting but I guess the best you can do is say, "what methods have you used?" "how long did that take?" You? You? You? and gradually try to shuffle out of the room.

I can only hope these people have no idea how painful this is for you. It hurts when someone steps on your boundaries, I know.

hyzenthlay

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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”

"The pace of the class was really out of my league. I'm dreadful at languages you see, and I'm studying at home. I only hope I'll be able to manage short conversations before DH is reassigned. I never though coming with him would be such a challenge  ;D"

Light tone throughout, and the mention of DH is to ensure they get in their pointy academic heads that you didn't come to Japan for fun and giggles.

lisat

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My previous post didn't get posted except for the smile! sorry about that.
My husband and I were stationed in Misawa Japan in the 1980;s. When I arrived there I found myself living surrounded by rice paddies and no Americans. My hubby had to leave for training less than a month after I got here. Needless to say I didn't speck any Japanese. Going to the local grocery store was in of itself a trip. Trying to guess what I was buying. I did eat alot of noodle soup. I can butcher any language. Spain-lived there four years and propositioned a taxi driver by telling him :Yo mucho calantie" I thought I was telling him I was hot but I was telling him that I wanted to mate with him. Cajoles and carnes are not the same word either. Japanese- aggggh! I discovered that in any country if you can laugh at yourself people are more than willing to help you. Ususally after they pick themselves up from the floor.  Japanese are so polite and friendly and you can't miss the hot tubs! I really dislike those who can pick up languages quickly while I am still trying to say hi, and then lord it over you. I just smile-that really pisses them off.

channa17

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I don't have a PhD or a degree from Oxbridge, but I am very good at learning languages (I am self-taught and nearly fluent in Mandarin Chinese and have a reasonable level of reading and writing ability, and live in Taiwan).

And I think Japanese is impossibly hard. The grammar is insane. Truly insane. Like, designed by an insane person. It's hard to pronounce the longer words ("please" is six syllables! On-a-gai-shi-ma-su. CRIVINS! is up with that?). So do not beat yourself up.

I think "I am studying conversational Japanese in another setting. Have you tried the wasabi mayonnaise?" - ie a quick, vague answer and immediate beandip, pre-rehearsed, is the way to go. People will get the hint. Say the first part with a tone of finality that says "I do not wish to discuss this".

By the way, I teach foreign languages, too (OK, I work in corporate training, but it involves a lot of language teaching). I can say, honestly, that those "formally taught" language classes that don't start with 'how to say things' are useless for the casual learner, businessperson or expat - they're really only good for long-term dedicated students and aspiring academics (ie the ones who go on to study Japanese literature or political history). I took some of those "formal" classes for Chinese and quit after two semesters. It wasn't that I was doing badly or was frustrated; I simply felt that I wasn't learning anything useful or practical, and the "useful" stuff was all too formal for everyday discussion: I wanted to learn the equivalent of "How've you been?", not the equivalent of "How do you do, my good sir?" (when I was lower level) or "What's up with that?", not "Please clarify your logic" (at a higher level).

So...hey. As a professional in this field I can tell you that I am right with you. That class format simply does not work for you, and I am honestly not surprised that it doesn't. It doesn't work for a lot of people. One of the big downfalls of foreign language education, especially in Asia and/or among stodgier teachers is this idea that "formal = better", and this assumption that we all want to learn how to carefully craft literary sentences rather than, I dunno, buy a tomato! This is something that I sincerely hope to change from the inside!

Of course, if the others all have or are getting PhDs, they are probably more enamored with the academic side of it and don't see it as a disadvantage. That's fine, and they are free to enjoy it. (That said, I know a few people like this in Taiwan and honestly, they may be able to read classical literature but put us in a conversation with locals and I can guarantee that I'll do better. They tend to clam up when asked to actually speak in a friendly, conversational way).

My advice, as someone who does this for a living, is to ditch the class for as long as you need or want to, including permanently. That's OK. Instead, keep on studying at home and maybe consider (NOT trying to pressure you - just thinking you might consider) a language exchange partner. If you find one with which you have good chemistry, then use that time to just hang out and socialize without the pressure of language learning at first. Then, start asking simple questions in English (like "How do I say 'I'd like a serving of eel nigiri?' or 'How do you say 'toilet paper'?) and keeping notes that you can look at later at home. Get a jumbo pack of post-its and write the names of household items in Japanese - both in English with pronunciation and in Hiragana which you can review later. Look at the post-it every time you use that item. When out and about, train your eyes on various objects and repeat anything you can remember in Japanese - and don't fret if you can't remember. It can take many repetitions before it sticks (carrying around a notebook full of, say, food words at the supermarket to 'cheat' at first can help). It took me five or six rounds of a supermarket looking at things and going "tomato - fanqie / soy sauce - youjiang / soda crackers - sudebing" before I really started to get it.

And don't worry that people will think you're weird. 1.) you're a foreigner in Japan so you are automatically weird to locals :) (just joking...kinda) and 2.) most Japanese are trying to learn English so if they see you doing this, they'll totally get it.

Anyway. You don't have to do this but it's something to think about.


iridaceae

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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. 
Ohmigosh! My long-lost sibling!  I cannot learn much more than basic Spanish. I have tried. And tried. And tried.  I still don't know the difference between ser and estar and have had to suffer through my dad's looks of incredulity when I've had to ask him to tell me what the price of something is at markets and then have to have him tell me the correct number for what I should be countering with.



Have you tried "I'm learning Japanese at my own pace?" 

lady_disdain

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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. 
Ohmigosh! My long-lost sibling!  I cannot learn much more than basic Spanish. I have tried. And tried. And tried.  I still don't know the difference between ser and estar and have had to suffer through my dad's looks of incredulity when I've had to ask him to tell me what the price of something is at markets and then have to have him tell me the correct number for what I should be countering with.



Have you tried "I'm learning Japanese at my own pace?" 


Just because my native language is Portuguese, I am going to have a shot at this:

ser - to be as a part of yourself, as a sense of permanence or something that is intrinsic. For example, "I am tall" would call for "ser"

estar - to be as something that is of the moment, that can change. "I am tired" would call for "estar", as you can rest and stop feeling tired.

Giselle Bundchen is pretty -> "ser", as she looks good even when she just rolled out of bed hung over

I am pretty tonight -> "estar" as I only look good because I spent way too much money on that dress, too much time applying makeup and you really don't want to see me first thing in the morning.

BeagleMommy

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OP, please don't let these people make you feel that you are not bright.  Everyone learns differently.  I find it absolutely impossible to learn anything to do with computers in an online setting.  I have to have a human voice coupled with hands-on training.

Oh, and I'm reminded of a dear friend of mine, who has a masters degree, when he went to Russia for an immersion.  He walked up to a Russian police office to ask directions.  What he thought he said was "I do not speak Russian, but I am learning".  What he actually said was "I am not a Russian woman, but I am learning"  ;D

Fortunately, the officer was very understanding about the silly American learning Russian.

VorFemme

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Have you tried phrasing it as YOUR learning style and not the class?

As in "I don't learn languages easily." or "I don't have a good ear for languages, it makes it very hard for me to learn new ones (referring back to languages)."

Then change the subject - possibly to your attempts to learn to COOK Japanese dishes from (your language) cookbooks - offer him a nice bean curd candy........or something. 

Sheesh.

I have an ear for mimicing some accents (better when I was in my teens that it is forty years later) but my memory for new vocabular & grammatical construction isn't good.  I can do LIMITIED first person singular present tense in Spanish - with practice and working out the sentence in advance (great for "where is the bathroom?", "I don't speak Spanish", or "bring me a cup of tea, bread, butter, and strawberries, please" but lousy for "if we wanted to go to the *local tourist attraction* which road would we take and how long does it take to get there from here").
Let sleeping dragons be.......morning breath......need I say more?

channa17

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but lousy for "if we wanted to go to the *local tourist attraction* which road would we take and how long does it take to get there from here").

I always tell my students that if they freak out about sentences like that with tricky grammar (the example above uses 2nd conditional), that they can and should cheat if it is a real-world situation where the focus is on getting your point across, not being 100% accurate.

So I'd tell them "OK, you think you can't say 'If we wanted to go to the *local tourist attraction*, which road would we take and how long would it take to get there from here?'." So say:

"We might want to the *local tourist attraction*. Which road do we take?" (or "If we want to go to the local tourist attraction, which road do we take?" or even better, "How do we get to the local tourist attraction?"
(get answer)
"OK...and how long does that take?"
(get answer)
"Thank you!"

OK, technically some meaning is lost but it probably doesn't matter: the listener/direction-giver probably doesn't really need to know whether the speaker is not expecting to go ("If we wanted to go...how would we get there"), is considering going ("We might go...how do we get there") or is reasonably likely to go ("If we want to go / If we go...how will we get there / how do we get there").

irish1

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I like 'I'm learning Japanese at my own pace'  :) a great teacher, Don Weed, gave me this one for when you feel under pressure to do things a way that's not for you - 'I's learnin' as fast as I can'

LovesWater

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but lousy for "if we wanted to go to the *local tourist attraction* which road would we take and how long does it take to get there from here").

I always tell my students that if they freak out about sentences like that with tricky grammar (the example above uses 2nd conditional), that they can and should cheat if it is a real-world situation where the focus is on getting your point across, not being 100% accurate.

So I'd tell them "OK, you think you can't say 'If we wanted to go to the *local tourist attraction*, which road would we take and how long would it take to get there from here?'." So say:

"We might want to the *local tourist attraction*. Which road do we take?" (or "If we want to go to the local tourist attraction, which road do we take?" or even better, "How do we get to the local tourist attraction?"
(get answer)
"OK...and how long does that take?"
(get answer)
"Thank you!"

OK, technically some meaning is lost but it probably doesn't matter: the listener/direction-giver probably doesn't really need to know whether the speaker is not expecting to go ("If we wanted to go...how would we get there"), is considering going ("We might go...how do we get there") or is reasonably likely to go ("If we want to go / If we go...how will we get there / how do we get there").

My mom took her three children to Madrid many years ago without speaking a word of Spanish. I still remember her asking passersby, "Prado? Prado?" and they would point and say something unintelligible, we would walk in that direction to the next crossroads and try again, "Prado? Prado?"  We eventually arrived at the Prado museum.

So not only do you not have to conjugate the conditional; you may mot even need a verb!