In the end, if you are studying a foreign language, practice is the most important thing.
Even if you study during class, even if you watch dramas or some such thing in that language, there is no certainty that you will remember what you hear.
Studying Japanese in America, it is likely that outside of class there won’t be many–if any–opportunities to practice speaking Japanese. So even if you studying your hardest it is not uncommon to forget what you have learned after a week or after a semester. I think this is due to the lack of practice in a meaningful way. Even if you read the new content in a book or hear the new content in music, if you yourself don’t use the new material independently, there is no way you can concretely learn it without fear of forgetting it later.
One way to self study in America–or wherever you are–is to use Japanese to write in a diary. However there is no accurate way to know if your Japanese is right or wrong if there is no native speaker to give you feedback. And even if you show whatever you have written to a Japanese speaker later on, it is likely that you don’t remember why you wrote the way you did–the feedback is not immediate and so looses some of its value. But in Japan, it is necessary to speak Japanese everyday. More than that, there are opportunities around every corner to further your interactions in Japanese. And when in Japan, when practicing Japanese, the feedback you receive is immediate and truly helps you recognize where and why you went wrong when you said what you did.
In America when studying a new grammar point or vocabulary list, it is not uncommon to stop reviewing the content once the test that will cover the material has finished. Because school is the only real place you need to use Japanese, and classes emphasize one particular set of curriculum at a time–often leaving it behind when moving on to the next topic. And because of this, language learners in America accept this system of studying for the test and not studying to learn, because that is what will get them an A in the class–that is what will make them feel like they are learning the language. Even if you have “learned” something, it will probably require review the next time you need to use the content. But when learning Japanese in Japan, you can learn something new and in that same day practice using it in a real life conversation, read it somewhere out in the world, practice writing it, etc. I believe that this intensive real-life interaction with new content is what encourages true learning. You can look at flashcards all day long, but until you go out and try really using it, and receive in person, immediate feedback, you won’t get very far.
So I think it is amazing to be in Japan.
When I returned to America from Japan, I forgot many things that I had learned while I was here. But in the past week–short a time as it may be–I have remembered and learned many things. Now, more than when I was in America, I want to try my hardest to study Japanese. Now, more than when I was in America, I love Japanese. I feel a desire to continue studying.
And I love that.
OK so if you couldn’t tell, I wrote generally the same content in Japanese, followed by English. Based on my interest in translation and translation theory, I tried to keep certain structures the same and convey the same message to both a Japanese and English speaking audience. However, I still lack fluency in Japanese and there were some points in the English version in which I got too excited and went off on mini tangents that I couldn’t convey in the Japanese. I also tried not to spend excessive amounts of time focusing on either portion–the whole post took about an hour, and I want to practice Japanese and translation theory at my own level without fretting or trying to make anything perfect.
I think this kind of post is good for my own personal language learning, so I am going to try to continue multi-lingual content–sorry if that is confusing or boring >_<
Thanks as always for reading my ramblings! Stay tuned for more adventures! Only two days before I move to Yoyogi!