Thursday, November 20, 2008

Lifelong learning

When I was younger, learning languages seemed to come pretty naturally to me. I picked up French in middle and high school without a problem. Then I added Spanish to my course load while I was in high school, and continued with it in college. I'd say I achieved proficiency if not fluency in Spanish and still had quite a bit of the French rattling around in the brain even a number of years post college. Then, when I was about 26, I was inspired by my boyfriend at the time (now my husband), to tackle Japanese. We had recently relocated to Seattle and I was unemployed. I figured I could take some classes while looking for a job. I attended for 6 sessions (each 6 weeks long). It went really well. I enjoyed the lessons and learned a lot. Ultimately, I reached the point where there weren't enough students at the intermediate level to continue with the lessons unless it was strictly on a private instruction basis. Naturally, this became costly and I decided I'd achieved enough at the time; I could get by when alone with my mother-in-law for example. I could do some shopping on my own. I didn't always have to have Gboy with me.

Now things are different. Living in Japan means I need a much more extensive knowledge base. Also, I learned a lot of Tokyo and textbook Japanese, but that seems to differ (quite often!) from the dialect in Osaka where we live. And frankly, it's been a number of years since I took those lessons. I've lost some of my language skills since then. Furthermore, it's been hard to brush up and do self-study when I've got childcare duties. Inevitably, my daughter's needs come first and the Japanese falls by the wayside.

This past weekend I decided it was time to make a change. I'm going to look into enrolling in lessons. Meanwhile, my mother-in-law, an elementary school teacher, has offered to help me study at night. We started the other night. She recruited my husband and father-in-law too. We played shiritori. I couldn't believe even my FIL joined in, but I'm glad he did because we had a blast. My MIL's English is pretty good - probably quite good. My FIL has little to no English skills. Not only did the game give me a chance to learn a bunch of Japanese words, but they got to learn a bunch of words in English (this makes Gboy very happy - he likes the reciprocation). All in all, I'd say my language skills are about to take off again and I'm thrilled!

Wish me luck!

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