Following the Rules

I’m about 7 chapters into my Conversational Japanese book, at this rate I am going to have to complete about 2 lessons a day to finish the book before I leave for Japan.  So about 1-2 hours a day on Japanese, sounds about right 🙂  In the very beginning of the book they list The Five Golden Rules:

Rule 1: Be confident! Believe in yourself. Believe that you will master the language in the near future.

I can see why this is important.  In every language I have ever worked on it’s always felt like I’m on a bipolar roller coaster, and I need to keep believing I can do it to get thorough those lows.  For me language learning goes like this:

Day 1:  I can’t wait to learn Russian, I checked out 20 books on it, and I’ll be speaking in no time.  This is going to be awesome!

Day 5: Russian is impossible, what was I thinking?!?  Why does everything need a gender, are chairs having babies now?  This was a bad idea…

Day 5, 2 hours later:  Well I guess chairs can seem masculine, very sturdy… and a car is clearly feminine.  Ok, ok, bring it on!

Day 10:  Irregular verbs are the devil.

Day 15:  Yay, I can read cyrillic easily!  Boooo it’s still a Russian word I don’t know.

Day 20: I can do this, I can do it…go go go…

“где в туалете (where is the toilet)?”

вниз, налево, то направо.

YES,YES, YES, I UNDERSTAND!  Ok, that was out loud and way to proud of yourself… quick to that bathroom 😦

Rule 2: Be brave!  Don’t be afraid of making mistakes.

This one is easy is thought and hard in practice.  Being judged and corrected constantly doesn’t do wonders for making you want to keep trying.  Probably a good idea will be to try to find someone who I can practice with as soon as possible.  When people are speaking to you everything is so much different and faster than in a book.  In Germany I had a really hard time, since so many people spoke English, it;s like they just didn’t have the time for you to try to work it out in English.  At least that is how it felt, maybe they just thought they were being helpful!  In Russia I had a better motivation… the closest food store didn’t speak any English and had no patience for my stuttering Russian either.  If I made it to the front of the line and couldn’t say what I wanted quickly, they would send me to the back of the line.  And this wasn’t a store where you could pick things out and place them on the counter, you have to ask for them by name and she would get them.  The first couple times I just left utterly embarrassed.  I’d like to say I got more confidence and stormed back there with perfect Russian, but being really hungry is a surprisingly good motivator.   I just had to learn to not care what everyone around me was thinking and get want I wanted.

Rule 3: Be persistent! Stick to one book or methodology from beginning to end.  Make a habit of studying the material every day.

Oops.  I think the first thing I did was gather as many books as I could and sign up for another 3 online newsletters/ courses.  But upon reading this I returned or cancelled all of them.  I do think this is good advice.  I tend to gather lots of things that will help me learn something as if gathering them close will help through some kind of osmosis.  Unlikely! A more likely scenario is that I will get overwhelmed from too much information and not get anywhere at all.  That’s what happened when I wanted to learn to yodel.  Maybe that was for the best though.

Rule 4: Be creative!  Try to apply learned patterns to new, unexpected situations.

I was confused about this rule, but now I think I understand.  Even if I manage to memorize this entire book, there is so much in a language to learn.  There is no way I will be able to learn how to respond to all situations.  That’s where being creative comes in.  When I was weak from hunger and trying to get food from the food kiosk, I had a back up plan.  That plan consisted of pointing and saying, “that one, left, left, left… yes, that one”  when I wasn’t understood.  It’s not pretty, but it works 🙂

Rule 5: Be Japanese!  Try to speak, behave, and think like a native Japanese speaker.  In other words, “Japanize” yourself!

I guess when you are learning the language, the culture is a side dish you can’t ignore!  Actually, that is one of my favourite parts of learning a language, how much you can learn about a culture from their grammar.   Until very recently, Russian had no single word for privacy.   Good thing I’ve read a lot of  manga or “research” as I will now be calling it 🙂


Consistency is starting to feel like a theme!


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