The chronicles of Burrito's bizarre adventure into Japanese.

Losing sight of one’s goals

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「久しぶりだな」 would be an understatement! It feels like it’s been forever since I last posted here. However, I’m back and hopefully things will be a little more active from here on out.

Though, “back” would imply that I’d gone away, which isn’t exactly the case. Certainly, my studies have been pretty light since my last update, but not a day has gone by that I haven’t done something in Japanese. I’ve hardly touched Anki in the past month, much less opened a learner’s resource, but thanks to continued exposure in drama, anime, games and websites, I don’t feel like my skill has slipped at all. In fact, I think the “break” has really helped me to internalize a lot of the stuff I’d been SRSing and deliberately studying. Breaks can be a very good thing, indeed.

I think it started with the dramas I was more or less forcing myself to watch every day. It was a goal of mine to watch at least one drama episode per day. I should have known immediately that my resistance in doing so was a bad sign. But what did I do? I continued to force myself to sit through at least one episode a day, as awful as some of those shows were, through some miraculous force of will and a vague promise to myself that watching these low budget, film school freshman rejects would get me somewhere – anywhere. I figured that in the worst case scenario, where I snapped and couldn’t take any more punishment, I could always fall back to my games, manga, anime and so forth. What I didn’t take into consideration was the possibility that I’d crash and burn into a twisted, smoldering, gibbering wreck. Naturally, something along those lines totally occurred.

For the record, this was somewhere near the middle of Liar Game.

Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? What kind of a lightweight am I to snap from a few bad TV shows? Shit, I’ve suffered through far worse in anime form – Elfen Lied is still one of the worst things I’ve ever encountered in animation form – and I’m still able to find dozens of excellent anime to watch. Was probably just an unluckily poor choice of dramas, so no biggie – just drop ’em and move on, right?

Apparently it wasn’t quite that simple. It was obvious even prior to this event that I was approaching burnout level, and my strict habit-forming enforcement of one hour-long drama episode a day was just enough to push me over. I had been getting frustrated and bored with the games I was currently playing, meanwhile distracted by (much more enjoyable) Western games not available in Japanese. Likewise, about half a dozen of my favorite, non-Japanese musicians had released new albums in a very short span of time, all the while my somewhat small (but eternally delicious) collection of Japanese music stagnating, with little motivation by me to hunt for more J-tunes. See where I’m headed? (On a side note, this is precisely why Khatz and co. recommend going 100% Japanese, and avoiding your old, native language stuff like the black-goddamn-plague. When you’re limited only to L2 material, it’s a heck of a lot harder to look back and make comparisons, decide your old stuff was superior and go back to it; your interest in the L2 diminishing all the while.)

I had to pause and ask myself, “What, exactly, is your goal with learning Japanese? Why are you learning Japanese?” If I had asked myself this when I started in the late summer of 2008, I wouldn’t have had any idea how to answer either of those questions – it just seemed like a fun thing to do, so I started and just sort of never stopped. I’ve always had a deep fascination in languages (I have an early childhood memory where I had a brilliant epiphany that ‘Spanish is obviously just English backwards! “Si” = “seY”, it makes so much sense now! … Wait a sec…’), and I’d had minor success in the past with a little bit of Spanish, as well as learning the Japanese kana, so why the heck not?

Eventually, I found a slew of answers to those questions. Perhaps no solid, realistic goals other than the dream of amateur (perhaps eventually professional) translation of video games, manga and anime, maybe one day visiting or living in Japan, as well as mastering what is supposedly the world’s most difficult (major) language, but indeed, goals nonetheless. As for why I was learning the language, any one of the several things I’ve always been fascinated in – games, manga, history, and so on – was a fine answer.

But recently? I feel as though I’d fallen back to the “I dunno” answer I started at – well, for a week or two there, anyway. None of it seemed very interesting to me anymore; I’d much rather have spent my time doing other things that I just couldn’t do (or play, or read, or listen to, etc.) in Japanese. With that, my old goals sort of slipped into the distance and I became a little apathetic toward the whole thing, despite the countless hours I’d put into studying over almost two years. Apathetic, but knowing in the back of my mind that I was far from done with this language, and most importantly – not worrying about it.

Briefly, I considered picking up a little Korean (I blame Starcraft 2) or Mandarin Chinese in the interim, as there’s nothing like a swift kick in the お尻 from another foreign language to show you just how far you’ve come in your L2. Getting my feet wet in Korean was all I needed for now (hangul is some cool stuff!).

My interest in Japanese gradually renewed and restored itself, as I knew it would, and my skill has hardly suffered from the brief “break” I took. I’m still going very lightly on SRS reviews (10 here, 20 there ) and don’t intend on opening any learner’s books or even dictionaries if I can help it, sticking almost entirely with the games, manga, anime and music that got me so interested in this language in the first place (whether I want to admit that or not!).

And I’m no longer stressing over the details, either.

SRS, as incredible as it’s been for my studies, is currently only being used for my Japanese keyword RTK deck, and I intend on keeping it that way (I’ll explain my reasoning in a future post, for real this time). Read the Kanji was an excellent shot in the arm which helped me truly get a strong grasp on essential vocabulary once and for all, as well as my foot in the door for the tougher JLPT2 content, but I can’t see myself using it again anytime soon. And speaking of JLPT, it’s no longer of much concern to me – not until I’m seriously needing to take it.

Studying tips, motivational articles, time/work hacks – all of these things have aided me up until now, but none of these things do I need any longer.

It’s amazing how much clearer everything gets when you trim away all the bloat, all the junk you don’t need. I have a tendency to collect this bloat, and eventually get smothered underneath it all. By stripping away all but the essentials, I’m left with only the things I need, this very moment, to get reach the end of this marathon.

My attention will continue to wane, sure – I’ll have streaks where I’m soaking up massive amounts of knowledge, making leaps and strides – and I’ll have periods where I just can’t be bothered with it any which way. But that’s just how it is, and ultimately, I know I’ll be sticking with this language in some way or another every day, 毎日毎日.

And that’s my boring story of the week! Stay tuned to the next episode, where I tell you all about that one time when I totally almost killed this one boss in Monster Hunter, but didn’t.


Written by ritobito

May 15, 2010 at 6:28 am

Posted in boring anecdotes

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