Monday, July 1, 2013

Away From Keyboard

Living up to the name of my blog, I've been neglecting updating for close to 10 months at this point. I'd like to blame it on how hard classes had been (they were hard) or how stressful finding a job was (it was pretty stressful) but honestly I'm just a lazy bastard. In my defense, though, I have adopted a psychological bug that makes me feel like I'm wasting tons of time if I'm not spending my time interacting with something in Japanese. Unfortunately, that has the unwanted side-effect of making it easy to convince myself to spend all of my off-time interacting with Japanese television shows sitting on my butt instead of doing anything interesting.

Also, in my absence from updates, Blogger seems to have lost a lot of my pictures from earlier posts. I'll see if I can't fix it a bit later.

So, let's see. Here are some things I can recap.

1. End of Yamasa and the JLPT
2. The job search and subsequent job
3. Study plan, future plans

I may split that up over a few posts. Let's see.

End of Yamasa and the JLPT


I ended up finishing out my year at Yamasa, finishing (successfully) 201 and 202, stopping short before their 300-level pre-advanced course. Through the end of 202, we finished what we called the blue book, which I feel was a big bunch of really good information. I'm actually a huge fan of that book. In fact, I'm a pretty big fan of all the books we used at Yamasa. After the end of the semester, I bought the 300-level book (the red book) even though I wasn't going to take 300--the idea was that I was going to study the whole book by myself for a year and see where I was after that.

My views on Japanese study, and maybe language study in general, have been rapidly evolving in every direction over the past year, so it's difficult to articulate where I stand on the subject. The red book, while still as excellent as the blue book, contains lots and lots of language that you don't really see on a regular basis. Lots of grammar constructions that you'll only find in books, lots of vocabulary that you'll only hear in formal press conferences, and so on. This sort of language is incredibly useful and necessary if you ever want to consider yourself fluent in any language, but at the same time...

I don't know, I feel like maybe the longest period of time anyone should ever take language classes is a full year. At this point I feel like my reading ability and kanji knowledge is so far ahead of my actually conversational fluency in the language that it's actually starting to become a hindrance. Any time I want to talk to someone in Japanese my brain tries to construct these elaborate literary sentences that just don't hold up in the real world. They're cumbersome to say and make you sound like a pompous jerk.

Meanwhile, I've met people who are more fluent than I am in Japanese who learned it from talking to people in bars, having Japanese girlfriends, or other random things. To be fair, they've been here tons more time than I have, and most people who learn like that end up being functionally illiterate in the language, but I can't help but be a little jealous. The classroom setting is fantastic for putting grammar points into your head but I guess the thing I've realized is that no classroom in the world is going to get you the everyday conversational practice that you're going to need.

I feel something similar about the N2. I took it last time around and ended up failing it by a few points in every category. I bet I could pass it now after another semester and a bunch of self-study, and yeah, maybe it's useful enough on a CV to have. But I don't really put any stock in it at all, and that's not because I failed it. It seems like the JLPT measures how well you know the language academically, but  you can pass N2 without being able to hold a conversation with actual people, so I don't think I'm gonna judge myself by it.

So am I going to return to Yamasa? I was sure I was going to when I was giving my graduation speech. Now? I don't know. I feel like maybe I've reached a point in the language where the most effective thing to do would be to just actively consume as much Japanese as humanly possible. For the time being, though, I have at least another year to go in this country so we'll see.

I'll update in a few days with more information about my current job and future plans and whatnot.