As of last week, I have lived in Japan for five months. Everyday for the past five months, I have listened to conversations and looked at signs and advertisements. You might assume that after doing these things for nearly 130 days, I would have picked up an impressive amount of Japanese and be on the verge of fluency.
You assumed wrong.
However, since language camp, I have been studying. Perhaps not as much as I should, but there has been a genuine effort (on some days). Although the reward is not as immediate as I would prefer, I have noticed minor improvements in my Japanese ability. For example, I sometimes excitedly blurt out words on trains or from menus when I can read and understand them. I also incorporate the few Japanese words I know into English sentences. For all my friends who actually speak Japanese, this is
probably terribly annoying. Please forgive me.
Further, I had my first real conversation with a non-English teacher at school. This is a huge deal. Normally, I am beyond awkward with the teachers. However, with my broken Japanese, I discovered that he took a weekend trip with his bro pals. He had fun. Also, I think Kyoto is interesting and I absolutely hate the copy machine.
Now, if that is not a deep and meaningful conversation then I don’t know what is.
Together, all these minor improvements give me the inspiration to continue studying. However, if I was running low on motivation, I received a boost of encouragement the other day.
While on the train, I was casually flipping through my flashcards. Obviously, everyone on the train could probably read my flashcards when they were four years old. So, out of pity or entertainment, someone gave me a note before exiting. After mistaking ソ for 二 (n for ni) and シ for ミ (shi for mi), I finally decoded the mystery note. It reads sonkeishimasu ganbatsutene, which according to my handy iPhone translator app, means I respect you. Good luck.
Therefore, little does he know, he truly made my day (or days if I consider the length of time spent deciphering). I can only hope that next time I will be able to read and understand it more quickly!