While everyone in the anime blogosphere is busy arguing about subs-srs-bsns and rawwatching=imawesomekneelbeforezod, Iâ€™m here kinda reflecting about how I myself am continually losing my proficiency because I donâ€™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. Itâ€™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 â€œhalfâ€ 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 â€œhalfâ€ of it is primarily answering back. Me, talking or writing. Itâ€™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. Iâ€™m thankful they were patient enough, but I still donâ€™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 thereâ€™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 itâ€™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 doesnâ€™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 canâ€™t continue schooling because I am busy. I was able to take lessons in Japan, well because, heck, what â€œelseâ€ am I supposed to do there? Aside from work, there is nothing over there. I just canâ€™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, itâ€™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 â€œrealâ€ 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 Circusâ€™ Da Capo II without much fuss, and Iâ€™m going through Keyâ€™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, thereâ€™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 donâ€™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 â€œalwaysâ€ 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 Iâ€™m witnessing my return to innocence, and at this point, Iâ€™m still not sure what kind of solution Iâ€™ll take. Wellâ€¦ 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 â€œchangeâ€? 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, â€œall because of the animuâ€, doesnâ€™t apply anymore. So the solution is changeâ€¦ a change in the answer to that question of self-reflection. Do I still have a reason for learning it? For nowâ€¦ Iâ€™m not sure yet. Who knows, maybe Iâ€™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, itâ€™s not there yet. Just like Obama, all I have for now is â€œhopeâ€, that I can revive my interest in learning the language through another reason.