I apologize in advance if I make any of my readers look like a slacker, but I am sure you are all eagerly studying something in this fascinating world! Let us do our best today too!
As I have written occasionally this past month, Japanese is a fiendishly difficult language to learn for us Europeans. Not only is almost every word different and the grammar also quite alien (to the point where Google Translate gives mostly gibberish), but the language is written in three different scripts, two of them with several dozen characters and the third with more than a thousand! (Several thousand if you want to read older books, but let’s not go there.) Even Japanese school children, who presumably can speak the language from home, learn only around a hundred characters per year, or so I have read. My Japanese readers should correct me if I am wrong. ^_^
Even with Memrise, the website which combines mnemonics and spaced repetition, I have a hard time remembering more than two out of three words when I revise them. But at least this proportion mostly stays the same, even though I add 15-20 words each day, usually more on the weekends. So the number of words that remain in my head must be increasing, although I am not sure which words I remember and which I forget.
Today, I noticed a couple things. I watched an old anime that I had not seen for years, and I recognized a word in the anime that I had learned from Memrise. Usually it is the other way around, but this is how it should be. A few days ago I recognized another in a Japanese pop song. So they are not kept in a separate locked room, they are available to my brain. If I keep adding words, they should pop up more often, until I don’t even remember where I learned them the first time. But for now, I do.
Another thing I noticed today was the hiragana, the most common script, with around 50 characters. Since the JLPT N5 course on Memrise uses mostly hiragana both when it shows the text and when I respond, I keep seeing them all the time. Because of this I no longer think of Hiragana characters as separate data points that I have to memorize. They are becoming a skill. I can read a word I have never seen before and know roughly how it is pronounced. And for the most part I am not in doubt. I don’t have to wonder which sound this character stands for, and then combine the sounds afterwards. I just combine the sounds. This is not quite the case for katakana, the less common script, but it will probably go the same way, only more slowly since I see it less often.
Even so, at this speed it will take months before I can read actual texts in hiragana, even children’s books or comics. I simply don’t have enough vocabulary. But months are a modest price to pay to open the door to one of the world’s greatest cultures. (Not to mention finding out the truth about Ryuho Okawa, the man who wrote 900 books.) Since I yet haven’t been diagnosed with anything terminal except life itself, I intend to forge ahead. Even if it goes slowly, it goes forward. At the least, I feel it is worth a try.