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[Lingo] From the "It's Funny 'cause it's True" Dept.
- Date: Sun, 1 Jul 2007 19:35:14 +0900
- From: "Josh Glover" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Subject: [Lingo] From the "It's Funny 'cause it's True" Dept.
A very tongue-in-cheek essay on why attempting to learn Japanese may be the biggest mistake you ever make.
It is especially funny to Americans who studied Japanese in US universities, due to its "been there, done that" flavour, but Japanese students of every creed should be mightily amused.
I was more or less the "deer in the headlights" type student: I took Japanese simply because my university required four years of a foreign language in high school or four college semesters, and I had only three years of French. But due to the fact that I started French in 8th grade and stopped it by 11th, and then took a year off before going to uni, I had not done anything with French for three years, and starting at French 202 (fourth semester French in uni) would have killed me.
So I thought that of the languages my uni offered, Japanese, Chinese, and Russian all sounded interesting. I figured Japanese was the easiest of the three (and since I subsequently studied the other two later in uni, I can tell you emphatically that is *not* the case for a native speaker of English), and signed up for it knowing nothing about Japan other than what I had seen in "The Karate Kid"--and as wonderful as the late Pat Morita was, an 一般的な日本人（「にっぽんじん」と読んでください）he was not really. Seriously. I had never met a Japanese person in my life, had not read a single line of 夏目漱石's beautiful prose, had not heard one note of 東京スカパラダイスオーケストラ's complete mastery of ska music, had not even seen one of 黒沢明's lesser films, let alone the sheer brilliance of 「七人の侍」 or 「天国と地獄」 or 「赤ひげ」!
I found Japanese delightfully easy for the first couple of months (let's face it: memorising 平仮名 and 片仮名 is just rote memorisation that can be done in a couple of days; and 「AはBです」 and 「AはBがCです」 are not so challenging), so I was hooked long before the spectre of causitive-passive reared its ugly head in Japanese 102. I got into the culture through the language, and found it delightful (the export culture, anyway, but that is another email).
Oh but do I ever remember the anime freak and know-it-all student types, as well as the more conventional deer-in-the-headlights types who found Japanese next to impossible and sat through classes in mute panic, hoping to survive for the next 50 minutes without being asked any questions. One poor girl lives on in infamy with Ota and I (we were classmates and later room-mates in uni, didn't you know?) for pronouncing 「ごめん」 as "GOH-men" (and I mean with a *huge* emphasis on that GOH).
The anime guys were pretty amusing, because they could say things like "You will never detect and thus defeat the source of my ultimate power, you pitiful mortal!" in utterly fluent Japanese, but could not manage 「机の上に鉛筆があります。」, somehow.
The know-it-alls were also amusing, though none of them made it out of Japanese 101, for some odd reason. Having a sense of entitlement and expertise simply because you have a Japanese girlfriend but otherwise know absolutely nothing about the country or the language does not seem to get you very far... ;)
And as for me? Ask Ota. ;)
 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0087538/  http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001552/  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natsume_S%C5%8Dseki  http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%A4%8F%E7%9B%AE%E6%BC%B1%E7%9F%B3  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokyo_Ska_Paradise_Orchestra  http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E6%9D%B1%E4%BA%AC%E3%82%B9%E3%82%AB%E3%83%91%E3%83%A9%E3%83%80%E3%82%A4%E3%82%B9%E3%82%AA%E3%83%BC%E3%82%B1%E3%82%B9%E3%83%88%E3%83%A9  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120863/  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akira_Kurosawa  http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E9%BB%92%E6%BE%A4%E6%98%8E  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drunken_Angel  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_Samurai  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_and_Low  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Beard
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