22 February 2004

Still an idiot

After studying Japanese for two hours, I feel dumber than I did when I began. This last week, in hopes to bolster my plans to be fluent by then end of 2005 (okay, maybe not fluent, but competent), I picked up a second Japanese tutor. Don't get me wrong, Hanaka sensei rules and all, but she's a little less systematic than my new tutor, Ishizuka sensei. My plan has been for Hanaka sensei to teach me how to talk, and Ishiszuka sensei to teach me how to write and give me a more systematic approach to the language (I learn best from writing, for all you ed. majors out there who find that interesting). Anyway, so I met with Ishizuka sensei on Saturday to pick out a book and have our first class. We went to the bookstore and I mentioned sort of off-hand that I'd like to learn some Kanji.

Quick Japanese language lesson: Japanese is comprised of three systems of writing. You got your Hiragana which is for phonetically spelling words of Japanese origin. I know Hiragana pretty well. Then you got your Katakana which is for phonetically spelling words of foreign origin. You can read some Katakana and infer the meaning most times because it sounds like English, generally. Anyway, I'm working on Katakana right now and I have about 40% proficiency in reading it. Okay, then you have your Kanij which are actually Chinese characters, and these mothers represent whole ideas or words, not sounds. The two at the top of this blog mean "ai" or "love" and "Nihongo" or "Japanese." Get the irony? There are some 10,000 Kanji in Japanese and I guess you need to know 3,000 to read a newspaper. I know about 20 or 25 right now.

I'd like to read some Kanji and Ishizuka sensei pulls this book off the shelf and is thumbing through it and says, "This looks good I think" and hands it to me. Well, I mean, I don't really know, but I'm bothered that it's called Introduction to Intermediate Japanese and I say this to Ishizuka sensei: "Won't this be maybe a little hard? I mean, I'm not really that good yet." And she looks at it again and was like, "Maybe it will be okay. I hope it's not to easy" and I'm like, "No, no, I doubt that." So I got that book and another one called Introduction to 250 Basic Kanji.

Our lesson lasted just about 45 minutes and we got through one sentence in the book. Ishizuka sensei again assured me that it would be okay, but I just spent about an hour of my studying just trying to separate words in the next three paragraphs. I suck and my head hurts. The Kanji book is much easier though. Really simple six or seven stroke Kanji that are easy to understand.

So all this reminds me that a bunch of people got Kanji tattoos because they were cool about five years ago. In fact, this one girl I worked with this summer insisted on showing me her Kanji tattoos that meant, she explained, "Sleeping Unicorn." There was also a picture of a sleeping unicorn (no irony there). I felt really awkward, standing in our office, with what's-her-name, pulling up the her shirt so that I could look at her dumb tattoos. I think the moral is don't get a Kanji tattoo.