Return to Innocence

By bluemist on November 7th, 2008

While everyone in the anime blogosphere is busy arguing about subs-srs-bsns and rawwatching=imawesomekneelbeforezod, I’m here kinda reflecting about how I myself am continually losing my proficiency because I don’t have anymore real-world outlets to refresh or retrain myself. Oh, and I decided to skip the JLPT3 this year because of personal scheduling conflicts. It’s true for me (at least) that anime or any other Japanese visual culturing alone cannot make me brush up on my Nihongo. There really has to be some sort of two-way conversation.

Video, audio and text can only give me “half” a conversation. It improves my listening skills, trying to pick up every word and process them on the fly to hopefully make a coherent understanding of whatever has been written or said to me. But the other “half” of it is primarily answering back. Me, talking or writing. It’s definitely HARDER. So there I was back in mid-2006, on the way to Japan. I really expect this to happen to me. I know fully well that no matter how many hours I expose my eyes and ears with kanji madness and moe~ seiyuu speaking, the real way to learn the language is doing it MYSELF. No more fiction, I have to apply it in real life.

So indeed, my early months were a nightmare. I was trying to speak with the Japanese folk in my workplace, but I was frequently corrected by them in terms of speaking the right words, the formality, timing, diction, etc. I’m thankful they were patient enough, but I still don’t wanna trouble them too much, so I decided to sign in the slightly formal Nihongo schooling a friend recommended. Every weekend I go by train to somewhere in Meguro, attending lessons. I had initially requested to skip the very basic lessons because I already know something. But because admittedly I only am capable in the hearing part, I had to cram to keep up with the kana and some basic kanji. It was fun because not only can I practice conversation with a teacher, but also with my fellow students. My classmates were of different nationalities, so there’s definitely no (English) cheating in conversations, I really have to think and speak in Japanese because this is the only common among us. And it’s a small group of students per class so it is easy for the teacher to nitpick about our strengths and weaknesses. I attended those sessions for two seasons (26 weeks), and from there life in Japan was a bit easier.

I was in Japan for about a year, and finally I went back home to the Philippines in mid-2007. With those lessons (and Japan-life in itself) as a foundation, I passed JLPT4. Now I have a certificate to brag right? Well wrong. It doesn’t end there of course. I continually have to find outlets to maintain the skill that I had. Unfortunately, I have no Japanese friends, and I can’t continue schooling because I am busy. I was able to take lessons in Japan, well because, heck, what “else” am I supposed to do there? Aside from work, there is nothing over there. I just can’t hop the densha to be an otaku in Akihabara every weekend, nor do I have the finances to hop the train to be a tourist elsewhere. Back home, weekends can be a million other things because I have more friends to be with, transportation is cheaper, and what the hell, it’s MY COUNTRY and I know it! Another bummer is that there is little chance that I would be able to go back to Japan by my employment. My resignation is more probable than that.

So without an outlet of “real” studying, I had to relegate myself to consuming anime and related stuff. This is where I discovered how it goes down like the economy. The first casualty was about the To Heart 2 ~Another Days~ game. I was supposed to play it and post summaries like before but the extreme complexity of the dialogue astounded me. On that note though, kudos to Leaf. I was able to finish Circus’ Da Capo II without much fuss, and I’m going through Key’s Little Busters without problems today. But TH2AD was nightmarish, it has more complex sentences and words. Good writers, Leaf has.

The second thing I discovered was I am watching more subs than raws. I could argue that my anime watching has undergone a bit of a diet, but I was a bit overwhelmed by some anime series, namely Strike Witches, Lucky Star OVA, and Special A. Okay, there’s military-speak in SW, otaku-speak in LS, and odd shoujo-speak in SA, so it was a bit off of real Japanese conversation material, but for these shows I was willing to wait for the subs. I was fine though in Shugo Chara, Naisho no Tsubomi OVA and Itazura na Kiss, among others, but they feature simpler conversations.

Thirdly, I got tired watching jdorama. I don’t have much interest in those anymore, especially since I am not frequently exposed to Japanese TV anymore unlike when I was in Japan. Back in Japan I “always” have the TV on, and so I absorb things like the quirky variety shows, random owarai, dramas, movies, showbiz gossip, etc. How I miss the gossip part lolz, especially when the trend is that many idol girl celebrities have owarai comedy actors as boyfriends. I noticed more of those than having a jpop or regular actor boyfriend. Cute girls go more for the funny not-so-handsome man eh? (self: chansu?) Similarly, my jpop music consumption has been lowered, with Animax-Asia not showing Music Station lately. Have they canned that already?

The active and passive form of my Japanese training fails me, so today I’m witnessing my return to innocence, and at this point, I’m still not sure what kind of solution I’ll take. Well… maybe I can relate this to the recent US Election perhaps? Suppose my time in Japan was the Clinton era, and after that, my Japanese skills going downhill is the Bush era, perhaps this is the time for “change”? Maybe a different kind of outlook, a higher purpose and a greater sense of responsibility.

Self-reflection: So why was I learning Japanese in the first place?

Yup, it was the animu. I was too engrossed in Japanese entertainment in general, that I want to understand more, consume more, and enjoy more of those things. As I grow up, and my real-life responsibilities increase, I had to sacrifice some time away from my hobbies, resulting in some lack of interest in the entertainment. You can also notice that in my sparse blogging. And so that kind of answer, “all because of the animu”, doesn’t apply anymore. So the solution is change… a change in the answer to that question of self-reflection. Do I still have a reason for learning it? For now… I’m not sure yet. Who knows, maybe I’ll have a Japanese girlfriend, or another job going to Japan, or taking interest in other aspects of the culture aside from animu. Whatever reason it may be, it’s not there yet. Just like Obama, all I have for now is “hope”, that I can revive my interest in learning the language through another reason.


Posted By: Caitlin On: November 07, 2008 At: 6:20 pm

Sorry to hear but perfectly understandable. I’m actually finding that the pressure of the JLPT is killing my desire to learn Japanese. I’m cramming the stuff in my brain but I’m not happy while doing it. Sometimes, just taking a break is enough – intense studying can only go on so long before we crash.

Posted By: bluemist On: November 07, 2008 At: 11:11 pm

Yup I could imagine the pressure, which is kinda similar to my college days everytime there’s a major exam. The difference though is unlike college, JLPT is ‘optional’ for me. I definitely had to finish college at a certain span of time, but as for JLPT, I always go the “there’s always next year” line of thought whenever I’m losing hope.

Posted By: hayase On: November 08, 2008 At: 12:07 pm

JLPT3 is not really much harder than JLPT4. I think self-study is enough but of course it depends one’s will power. Actually, I find that attending Japanese-language classes is the best for me.

>>Self-reflection: So why was I learning Japanese in the first place?
>>The difference though is unlike college, JLPT is ‘optional’ for me.

Indeed, motivation is one big factor in the success of studying for JLPT. There were numerous times that I did question the hours I spent studying, that they might be a waste of my time. I still haven’t found a more concrete motivation for learning Japanese other than for anime consumption. I hope I do find one in the future. 🙂

Posted By: Koji Oe On: November 11, 2008 At: 12:15 am

Wow, I totally regret not keeping up with your blog. You and I are really going through the same thing. I am currently in Japan for the year studying. I have only studied Japanese for a year and I am in 400 level so it is quite difficult since I all around suck.

People encourage me saying things like, “You’ll get it eventually.” or “Come spring you will get better.” But sometimes I don’t know. Right now I am going through the same kinds of issues. I have forgotten my dream and why I wanted to learn Japanese. Watching anime is something I rarely enjoy as I did in patch although, I am really into Ef now. Chihiro is so cute.

I mean I like anime and games, but I also want to bring anime and games to others through my work, but I am so doubtful of myself I don’t know if I can ever be as good as I want to be.

Then there is what am I going to do after I graduate problem. I was thinking JET since I am hardly fluent and it might give me some good experience that I lack but other then that… What is there?

Posted By: bluemist On: November 11, 2008 At: 8:37 am

What I feared was the kanji part. I think the cramming that I did in JLPT4 (memorizing 100+ in a mere list) won’t work anymore in JLPT3, even though the number only doubled. I need to learn it the real way next time.

Losing our cable NHK channel contributed in a way in losing interest, because I don’t discover many new things about Japan (aside from anime) without that channel.

@Koji Oe
I’m assuming you have more formal classes. Having a favorite anime helps a bit, especially if you’re highly anticipating each weekly episode. As for me, I could care less waiting a few more weeks to watch some of them in marathon, or watch none at all until it ends. Not sure if you’re playing the ef games, but I would highly recommend those to train your Japanese (as practice, not actual srs bsns lessons).

Posted By: Anime On: November 27, 2008 At: 3:42 am

I feel, the best way to be successful in JLPT is just treat this as another college exam! 🙂


Posted By: xau On: December 05, 2008 At: 2:08 pm

hm… something i’ll consider when going over to japan next summer.

Posted By: AnimeVocalist On: December 07, 2008 At: 2:34 am

It’s alright to feel that way sometimes. Nothing can last forever. However, when you feel like you’re back to the track again (which is learning Japanese) you will learn faster with more enthusiasm! I believe 🙂