Japanese progress, weekend of 2/10/12

[No kanji/vocab progress bar, because I’ve been using the site less this past week since at this point it’s just review and I had to focus on getting through my textbooks instead, so there really won’t have been much change from last week.]

Second weekend of three to spend studying… once again, I didn’t finish all the (very optimistic) tasks I had set out for myself, but I did get through all the grammar this time (and will spend weeknights completing listening and reading–I got through some of it but not all. I’m getting better at listening! Except numbers. I hate numbers, in any foreign language, always. I’m trying not to listen to each scene more than once–since tests will only play it once–but it’s hard when numbers are involved. Boo). Of course, that doesn’t mean I mastered all the grammar… I still made a ton of mistakes on the quizzes and I need to review the more difficult points. (However, some stuff was also really easy, so easy that I thought “This is N2 level difficulty? Really?” Good sign?!). I think I’m getting a little better at intuiting grammar though. Studying grammar and trying to pick up an intuitive knack for it has made me realize how much I rely on my intuition when it comes to doing well at things like this. The way I see it, there’s two routes: you memorize every single nuance of a grammar point and what situations are appropriate for it as opposed to the next very similar, only slightly different point, or you read all of that, absorb it, couldn’t repeat it back completely, but just know intuitively which one is right for the sentence.  Maybe the intuition route isn’t the most reliable or the safest, but I don’t think I’m capable of truly memorizing everything there is to know about each point. I would much rather read buckets of example sentences until I can just sense how to use it. And come to think of it, that’s how I do a lot of things in life: recipes, human interaction… It seems to be working okay…

But really, I hadn’t realized just how much of an intuitive person I am. I feel like a cat with extra-sensitive whiskers just going through life sensing things intangibly. (Well, maybe everyone is like this, I don’t know.) The Japanese word that applies in this case is 勘 or kan: perception, intuition, the sixth sense. Along those lines I’ve been thinking recently about personal compatibility, and how it seems like a lot of the time, I can just tell instinctively if I’m compatible with another person, if we’re going to be good friends. In Japan studying abroad, my study abroad program center wanted people to volunteer to help make a scrapbook of events that happened over the course of our semester. For some reason I volunteered, so a few times after classes I’d sit at a table in the center with a couple Japanese girls–who attended the nearby college where some of the program’s students took classes; I had some there–and we’d cut and paste photos and write descriptions. One of the girls had somehow been matched with me earlier as a conversation-buddy type situation, and I think we had exchanged emails? Which is why she’d been partnered with me for this project too, I think. (I really don’t remember this clearly.) But I thought the friend she’d brought along was my matched partner, because we made an instant connection, at least to me. I just sensed it, I had an immediate feeling of “This is someone I will get along with, this is someone I really want to be friends with.” (I had had that same feeling when I encountered Lil for the first time at Narita waiting for our bus shortly after getting off the plane–I saw her Rilo Kiley shirt and just knew! And when I think about it, I’ve had this gut innate feeling about my compatibility with someone else countless times, and it has compelled me to pursue the other person in some way, even just for friendship). I feel bad now because I was supposed to bond with my assigned partner, not her friend, but I ended up totally ignoring my partner–I just figured, “This person I instantly like must be my partner” when that was in fact wrong. The friend’s name was Yuuho and whenever I saw her the rest of the semester, I made sure to talk to her. I think we both felt that connection but we didn’t get enough opportunities to really bond that semester. She wrote me a very sweet message in our yearbook and we had become Facebook friends but I had had almost no contact with her since 2006.

Recently Yuuho posted a picture of her cat on Facebook, and I was shocked because her cat looks almost exactly like mine. I commented on the photo saying so (in Japanese, though Yuuho’s college was for students interested in languages so most were fairly fluent in English too), she replied, and I moved the conversation to Facebook message so we could talk in greater depth. We’ve been exchanging messages ever since and it’s been so much fun! (Good reading and writing practice too.) In the last one she commented on how it turns out we’re really alike–we both have individualistic personalities so we don’t have such a hard time with long-distance relationships (mine isn’t anymore but was for the majority of it; her boyfriend currently lives and works in Osaka and she lives in Chiba prefecture), we both like cats (and, as she said, they even look the same!)… and when she said all that it just confirmed my initial impression I’d had in 2006. And made me start thinking about all of this.

So needless to say I’m sort of realizing how much I really value my intuition and how glad I am that I have this ability to just sense things. I mean, I’m not always right–there have been many times where I had an initial very negative impression of someone, and then eventually grew to like them a lot, or times when I really liked and wanted to be friends with someone who turned out to be terrible. (And similarly, the word 勘違い or kan-chigai refers to when your intuition wasn’t right–a wrong guess or a misunderstanding.)

And on the subject of reconnecting with Japanese people, I also reached out and resumed contact with my host family that I first stayed with in January 2006. My host sister was six years old then and she’s 12 now! My host mom sent photos and it’s just insane! It was really good to hear from her; hopefully we can be in regular contact from now on too. I only lived with them full-time for a week (and then during the fall I’d come spend a night or two there every month) but we had so much fun together. For some reason she wanted to talk about the earthquake in her reply; she asked me if I’d heard about it. I’m going to have to be like, “Of course! Everyone heard about it! My relatives and friends wouldn’t stop pestering my sister about it even though she lives in Kyushu, and it really pissed her off that they didn’t know geography!” (okay, I won’t say all that)

I’m also reading some of Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 each night before bed, and loving it. I like Murakami–enough to have read his entire bibliography in English, enough to have purchased and read After Dark in French since the French translation came out before the English–but I’ve never been able to choose a favorite from among his works. This one just might be it, which for some reason is really exciting. The book is in high demand at the library right now though (I don’t buy hardcover books, only trade paperback, so when a new book comes out I always have to wait for the library to get it in before I can read it), with a long list of holds, and I only get two weeks with it before I have to return it. I do not expect to finish the 900-page beast in that time, so I’ll just join the hold list again and wait for it to come back to me! It’s a really, really good read. Highly recommended. Although I can’t say if it’s a good starting book for Murakami; you might want to read Norwegian Wood first to get a feel for his style? Hm.

In any case, slow and steady but hopefully real and lasting progress; feeling more confident about my Japanese all the time. Actually studying and putting in effort and time somehow works! I think I really am N2 level; I just need to master it.

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