This week is a busy one, but I’ll still cramming in some Japanese where ever possible.
The grammar for this week is:
~という and っていう
more about より
and something else that I haven’t made heads or tails of yet.
Just recently I had a couple of very nice Skype conversations with a Japanese person, but she decided that her English wasn’t good enough to continue conversing – she felt that she was having to think too long to make her responses that I was having to slow down my speaking somewhat in order for her to understand me.
But, here’s the thing – it’s a language exchange. You’re doing it to learn and to practice. Yes, I may have slowed down my speech somewhat, and she may sometimes have had to think a bit before figuring out how to reply, but the people I speak with in Japanese sometimes have to repeat things or rephrase things or slow down for me to understand them, and sometimes I have to think about how to say what I want to say before I can say it in Japanese.
That’s how it works when we’re learning.
One of my primary rules for language learning: You will make mistakes. Acknowledge and move one. (The original version of this, which I used to quote to myself was: You will make mistakes. Get over it. I’m softening it up a little bit for use with people other than myself!)
In order to learn a new language, you need to use that new language as much as possible. The idea that you can practice on your own, master the language and then go out and talk to other people is probably wrong. (There may be some language wizard out there who could do it, but for us mere mortals, it doesn’t work that way.) Having as much conversation as possible is an essential step toward language mastery.
Being too embarrassed or too shy to use the language, being too worried about mistakes or being worried that your vocabulary is too small will actually stop you from learning. Tell people you are just learning and then go for it!
You might say to me, “Easy for you to say. You’re probably at a level where you feel comfortable speaking in Japanese.” Well, when I had my first Skype conversation, I really new very little Japanese at all. In fact, I had a cheat sheet in front of with with use useful phrases as はじめまして and おげんきですか written out in hiragana so I could whip them out and demonstrate my complete lack of mastery of Japanese.
I had an advantage, you see. I had already learning Spanish, and I had made mistakes that left my friends rolling on the floor with laughter. (Strangers never laughed at me. Only my friends did that.) And, you know what, it didn’t do me in. I discovered that making mistakes, even in public, even with total strangers, didn’t actually hurt me at all, so…when it came to learning Japanese, I went in armed with that knowledge. When people know that you are just learning, they tend to be untroubled by your mistakes, so don’t let fear hold you back.
Actual mistake I made in Spanish in church:
What I was supposed to say: Creo en el perdón de los pecados.
What I actually said: Creo en el perdón de los pescados,
Ah, they look so much alike, but the first one means I believe in the forgiveness of sins, while what actually came out of my mouth was I believe in the forgiveness of fish.
I though that my friend next to me was going to break a rib from the effort of holding in her laughter. For months afterward, at the appropriate moment, she would look over at me and mouth the word pescados, and this is just one example among many.
Just laugh it off and move on.