This was my week of “as much Japanese as possible”. I blogged in Japanese, responded to comments in Japanese, watched Japanese videos without subtitles (and often without understanding!), I read Japanese, I listened to Japanese music…in other words, I got as close to immersion as I could while having to live and work in an English speaking place.
Quite frankly, it was sometimes very frustrating, but I’m going to do it some more. I have a few more options for more immersion that I’ll share in a later post.
I found an interesting resource for Ghibli fans called Ghibli script. They sell transcripts in Japanese (kanji with furigana) with English translations of the scripts to Ghibli films. It seemed like it might be a good learning resource, so I got the one for となりのトトロ.
After looking over the first few pages, I’m glad I got it. After I really read through it (and deconstruct the grammar) I’ll watch the movie with the script in hand.
I had a great Japanese lesson this morning. Instead of working through my homework, though, I spent it asking questions about things I had read on Satori Reader and in the Totoro script. The script especially is a mix of informal and more formal Japanese, and I ran into some things that I had never seen before.
One of them was おうちの方. My Cafetalk tutor doesn’t use English with me anymore, so, when I asked what this meant, the first thing she said was 家の人 which eventually worked out to be something like “the people in charge of the house”. I also ran into どなたか. Now, though I knew that どなた is the polite version of だれ, for some reason it just didn’t click that どなたか is the polite version of だれか. I think that it didn’t click because I saw the word in a sentence, and, since Japanese sentences don’t have spaces between the words, my brain separated the か from the rest of the word.
And there was this one: くたびれたかい. That was absolutely a new one on me, and the dictionary was of limited help. くたびれる means “to get tired” so this could just as well have been 疲れた which is a word that is an old friend, but what about かい? This is where the dictionary was no help and my tutor had to step in. If you look かい up, you get many definitions, some of which were familiar to me, but none of which made any sense at all in this context. It turns out that かい is an informal version of か, so all that it did was into the question “Are you tired?”
I also ran into this sentence: そこには、永遠に続きそうな階段、そらにその上に広がる別の世界があった。
そこには – that’s basically just there
永遠に続きそうな階段 (I had to break this one down. It did not roll lightly off my tongue
永遠に – forever
続きそうな – from 続くmeaning to continue but with an ending meaning to look like and a なmaking the whole phrase an adjective which modifed
階段 – staircase
そらに – furthermore
その上に – from the top
広がる – to spread out, to extend
別の – another
世界が – world and が indicating that we finally got to the subject!
あった – past tense informal of ある。
So, how about something like There, there was a stairway that looked like it went on forever, and, furthermore, another new world that spread out from the top of it.
I freely admit, that one took me awhile. If you can simply read and understand it right away, outstanding. If, however, you look at a sentence like that and get stuck, you can always just do what I did: break it down and put it back together again and get some sense out of it.
Start with two assumptions:
1. No matter how much it looks like the demented ravings of a gibbering lunatic at first glance, the sentence actually does make sense
2. You can figure it out
Then break it down. If nothing else, start by splitting it up at the particles. That’s always a good first step. You may have to break it down further after that, but at least you will have made a start.
Now, a site like Satori Reader will give you the translation of each sentence with the click of a mouse, and that’s how you don’t learn.
“Oh, this one looks tough.” Click “Oh, that’s what it means.”
What have you just learned? Nowhere near as much as you could have. Don’t go for the easy out. Wrack you brain and try to figure the sentence out on your own, and never look at the translation until after you’ve given it your best shot. Yeah, it’s more work that way, but you sure do learn a lot more.