My studies of Japanese have persisted over the years, all the way back since college (and even dabbling a bit in high school in the 90’s), but really took off after I married my wife. On our first trip to Japan post-wedding, I was totally unprepared for being in Japan and was helpless to communicate. This spurred me to take Japanese studies more seriously, especially when I discovered the JLPT exams. As a person who likes working toward specific, measurable goals, this helped spur my Japanese studies quite a bit and I managed to pass the N2 exam at the time (about 7-8 years ago). I took the N1 a few years later and complete bombed, partly due to a mistake on my bubble-sheet.
However, after that, my Japanese studies really started to plateau, then drop off. I still watched Japanese TV with the wife and kids, and had a few podcasts I would listen too, but overall I got pretty lazy and atrophied.
The problem, looking back, was a combination of:
- no worthwhile goals, and
- lack of resources in intermediate Japanese
- embarrassed by my lack of conversational skills; my studies for the JLPT didn’t help conversational skills as much as I had hoped
In essence, the problem was just that I was bored and demoralized.
So, lately after a burst of inspiration, I decided to try again. Not for the sake of the JLPT necessarily, I just wanted to get back to basics and start studying Japanese again in hopes that it would help my conversational ability. Also, I suppose it was motivated a bit my nostalgia too. I enjoyed those times when I was studying hell-for-leather for the JLPT and learning Japanese as quickly as I could.
Anyhow, since I live in an area with a large Japanese community, I went to my local Kinokuniya bookstore and looked at the Japanese-language materials. A lot had changed since I last studied Japanese, and it was nice to see how far things had come along. When I first studied in the 1990’s and later in college, there wasn’t as much material and it was focused too much on stilted, business Japanese, but also the grammatical explanations were often inaccurate and confusing, especially when explaining particles.
That said, out of the books I looked at, the series of books I liked best is the Japanese From Zero series. The book is pretty easy going, but the exercises are clever and good at reinforcing essential points. I decided to start with book 3 because it’s a good starting point for me, but not too remedial. Just as I used to do back in the day. ☺️
The point of all this though is that I thought I was all washed up as a Japanese-language student, and ultimately a failure. But really, it was all in my mind. Of all the languages I’ve dabbled in over the years, Japanese is the only one that I’ve really stuck with and still continue to enjoy 20 years later, and even now I’m still learning something new all the time. When I focused less on what I had done (or failed to do), and just found what I enjoyed about Japanese, it revived my interest and motivation. Rather than worry about what I could be, I just decided to focus on what I enjoy about it, and let the rest work itself out.
P.S. For the astute reader, this may also explain the increased activity on the blog. 😉