[일본어] Getting acquainted with Japanese

If everything turns out well, I’ll be taking 2 Japanese classes (Elementary Japanese 1 & 2) this coming semester and I will continue to take more – a total of 8 classes, probably including Intermediate 1 & 2, Advanced 1 & 2, Readings 1 & 2. There are more classes such as Advanced Readings 1 & 2, Advanced Composition, Advanced Kanji, Japanese Translation, Reading Japanese Newspaper, Scientific and Technical Japanese, History of the Japanese Language, Japanese Semantics, but I don’t have to take them since I’m not majoring in Japanese (more of like minoring on it O.o). This actually makes me jealous. It would have been wonderful if the Korean Language program in our university is as extensive as Japanese. That way I can take, and learn, more Korean. Unfortunately, there are only 4 Korean classes in our university (Elementary 1 & 2, Intermediate 1 & 2) and I have already taken all of them last school year.

I’m kinda scared to start learning Japanese though. Well maybe scared is not the right word… anxious and apprehensive, perhaps? A good friend who’s very good in Korean have minored in Japanese too, but she studied Japanese first before Korean. Now she has forgotten most of her Japanese. Some classmates in my Korean class took Japanese before and were oftentimes frustrated in our Korean class. Another classmate from our Korean class told me that she really found Japanese difficult when she was studying it before and discourages me upfront (!). Her best friend argued that learning Japanese is easier than Korean though. I’ve come across some blog entries that discuss the complexities of  Japanese and I must say it does makes my afraid. I guess scared is the right word after all.

Right now I’m trying to get myself acquainted to the language (as I also begin to learn Japanese characters) by listening closely as I watch some animes or Japanese videos. But somehow I find it difficult to connect with it. It feels like there’s a wall between me and Japanese. I’m trying (I think I am), but I still can’t get past that wall. Something that I didn’t feel with Korean. With Korean it was love at first sight. Attraction with it was effortless. In fact it keeps drawing me in.

So I thought of how I first started learning Korean – hoping that it could help me get into Japanese too.

My first encounter with Korean is my DVD (bootleg copy) of My Name Is Kim Sam Soon. I have zero Korean background prior to watching that drama. Korean introduced itself to me through 16 hours of listening, reading bad subtitles, laughing and crying with it. To me then (and even until now), Korean is the sound of Kim Sun-Ah‘s voice.

I didn’t immediately decide to study Korean. But after a few re-watch of My Name Is Kim Sam Soon and listening to its OST over and over, I decided to give it a try. I eagerly watched Let’s Speak Korean on cable TV. Five minutes after, I realized it’s impossible to learn Korean without learning 한글 first – and I didn’t want to bother learning characters, so I dropped the idea of learning the language. But a few months after, with my strong desire to register at Kim Sun-Ah’s fancafe, I heaved a deep breath and gave studying Korean another shot – characters and whatnots. Since then nothing has stopped me from wanting to get to know Korean more and more. I may be slow and inconsistent at times. There may be days when I feel frustrated. But never once had I gave up on learning. And never have I lost interest – and I guess I never will. The moment I jotted down my first 한글 character (ㄱ, if I’m not mistaken 🙂 ) on a piece of paper I felt a certain excitement. Something I still feel right now whenever I study Korean. Something that I didn’t feel when I started learning Japanese (Hiragana).

I was thinking maybe because I have dozens of reasons why I’m into learning Korean. love Kim Sun-Ah. I love Korean dramas and movies. I listen to loops after loops of Korean songs everyday. I crave for, and even tried cooking, Korean food. I appreciate Korean culture and history. I have lots of Korean friends. I read Korean articles. I listen to Korean radio regularly… the list just goes on and on.

But on second thought, with the exception of Kim Sun-Ah, I only started loving, doing and having all these things AFTER I started learning Korean.

I even have a bigger head-start with Japanese. I’ve seen about 5 dramas and a couple of animes. I’ve seen more than a dozen Japanese films. I interact with my Japanese students for about 5 hours a day. I have Japanese friends. I have a few Japanese songs (read: 10 songs out of the thousand Korean songs) on my playlist. I love Japanese food. Plus availability of learning materials are more vast than Korean learning materials (at least during the time I started learning Korean). But somehow anything Japanese doesn’t appeal to me as much as Korean.

Was it because there’s no Kim Sun-Ah in Japanese? Actually, my Suna Unnie is fluent in Japanese since she spent middle school to high school in Japan. Whenever she is interviewed in Japan she doesn’t need an interpreter. She even talks in Japanese with her Japanese fans in her fancafe. She even have a Japanese websites where she leaves messages regularly – in Japanese, of course. She even wrote a book in Japanese (something that I’m dying to read one day because it’s all about her experience and feelings while filming My Name Is Kim Sam Soon). It’s probably the only thing right now that stops me from giving up on Japanese. I guess I could easily throw away my new notebook and my first Japanese book. Then I could just chose Anthropology or Psychology or even Math as a minor. But somehow thinking that I could eventually be able to understand Kim Sun-Ah’s interviews in Japanese and be able to read her book makes me want not to give up learning Japanese.

I’m excited nonetheless. This is the first time I’m learning another language after about 4 years. And unlike Korean when I was fumbling most of the time, I’m more prepared now. I have a background in linguistics now and have read a great deal of books about languages. I’ve also picked up tips from fellow bloggers. And I definitely learned a lot from my mistakes in my approach in learning Korean.

It just disturbs me that something just doesn’t feel right – at least for now. Or maybe I was just looking for the same kind of feeling Korean gives me that I still can’t find in Japanese – something that might not even happen after all. I know I shouldn’t compare the two, but somehow I just can’t help it.

Also I think I would have felt better if I have a good grasp of Korean already (at least if it is past the intermediate level) before I start learning another language. Somehow having to allot some of my Korean study time to Japanese studying makes me a bit sad. I have yet to learn a lot of things in Korean. As much as I would like to study at my own pace, it leaves me no choice because I HAVE to start studying Japanese now.

Well, right now I’m trying to clip and compile all of my Kim Sun-Ah videos (drama scenes, interviews, news, VTRs, trailers, fan meetings in Japan) with her talking in Japanese in one folder. I hope watching it over and over can finally spark the flame of my interest in Japanese language. I’ve already tried some for a few times and it just didn’t work :|. She just sounds so different whenever she’s talking in Japanese  (hello?! what do you expect?) that I don’t feel it’s her. I hope that I’ll learn to love Japanese too – if not as much as Korean, at least half as much. ^_^

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