Studying Japanese Again

These days I’ve been trying to pick up on my Japanese study again. Part of the requirements for me to take Japanese citizenship is that I need a Japanese level at least equivalent to that of a Japanese middle schooler, so I guess I’m trying to read books for middle school children…

Two Japanese language books for children
Left: “Training correct Japanese for Elementary Schoolchildren”; Right: “Murder Restaurant”

Honestly, I’m not really sure how I should go around in my study. In December, I tried studying some N2 books, and that got boring terribly fast. My goal is not to study for a test, so the book didn’t feel right for me. Then I tried some flashcards apps in my cellphone. They are great for memorizing how to read kanji, but not so much for improving my “expression portfolio”.

“Expression Portfolio”. I can navigate the world in Japanese pretty confidently — After all, I have to read dozens of e-mails in Japanese everyday, and also understand what the other professors ask of me. On the other hand, my real problem is that I have a lot of difficulty to express myself in the ways that I want to. I can, of course, just wing it and make sure that most of my message comes through, but that is different from just picking a pen and writing down a quick blog about my feelings, and have confidence that the nuances of what I wanted to say will come through. How can I get that fluency?

Of course, I think back about how I got my fluency in English in the first place. One trick, I think, is output. Writing a lot, creating a lot, should force my brain to make the necessary connections between ideas and words, so that they come when I ask them to.

Of course, that is only part of the puzzle. The other, is how to get used to “natural” Japanese. The trick to that is input, and that is where I get stuck. When I was a kid, I had a hunger for books from Asimov, Tolkien; stories I felt fascinated by, and characters I wanted to emulate. RPG textbooks, that I wanted to understand and explain to my friends. People in the international forums that I looked up to, and emulated their speech patterns.

Nowadays, it is hard to find similar “examples” in Japanese — not only good examples of natural Japanese text, but good examples of natural Japanese text that I can empathize with and look up to.

But let’s stop here before I get too bitter. I guess I just need to look harder.

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