5 Hesitations I Have About Teaching Myself Japanese, Plus Proof That None of Them Matter


Okay so I’m learning Japanese. You will have noticed that by now, probably. But what I may not have said is that I’m teaching myself. I have never taken a Japanese class, and never had a Japanese lesson. I’m working through Tae Kim’s Guide to Japanese, putting the sentences into Anki to learn them, but not paying too much attention to mundane things like grammar rules. I have several dictionaries and All About Particles by Naoko Chino. But other than that, I, uh, watch a lotta anime and listen to a buncha music.

But then I started to have all these doubts. How can I teach myself something I don’t know? As one woman at work put it, “how do I know if I’m saying it right?” (This woman then proceeded to make vaguely-Asian, racially-offensive sounds, so maybe we won’t worry about her so much.)

So here are my doubts, and here are the reasons I’ve decided they don’t matter, mostly taken from observing children (but not in a creepy way! Oh no, I shouldn’t have said that-now I sound even more creepy. I swear I’m not a weirdo!)

1. I might be pronouncing it wrong.
There aren’t all that many sounds in Japanese, so this isn’t as much of a worry as I would have with, say, French (which feels like a national emergency in my mouth). But still, I’m avoiding romaji and doing it all in hiragana, so I might mix up て and と without knowing it. And then of course I might be getting the r/l “lip my stocking” sound wrong.

Yeah, and I met a 5 year old Australian kid who called the Queen “Abithabiz”. What an idiot. I don’t know him anymore, but I can only assume he got sorted out eventually. So will I.

2. I might be making other mistakes.
Like the word for “minute” (分). Sometimes it’s “ふん”. Sometimes it’s “ぷん”. Depends on the number. I’m bound to screw this up.

However, there is a 2 year old running around North London who, as a result of being in a house with a tennis fan during the Summer Olympics, refers to the Union Jack as “Andy Murray Flag.” (And then everyone laughs, so he keeps saying it. But he’ll probably be okay.)

3. I don’t know grammar rules.
I’m more “exposed” to grammar rules than learning them. I’m not studying tables full of verb conjugations though, and isn’t that the first thing you’re supposed to do when learning a language? “Amo, amas, amat, etc.”?

Then I remembered that “am”, “is”, and “are” are conjugations of the verb “to be”. I bet I didn’t know that when I was six. It didn’t keep me from talking. (Actually, no one could get me to shut up. Not much has changed.)

4. I’m not getting experience constructing sentences of my own.
I could be, granted. I could tweet in Japanese or go on Lang-8 or whatever. But I don’t feel like it. I wouldn’t know what anyone said back to me anyway.

Well, if I lived in Japan I wouldn’t have a choice. I’d have to talk/write to communicate on a day-to-day basis. But I don’t live there so I don’t have to. Let’s instead imagine that I can read books and understand spoken Japanese but cannot speak a word of it myself. Number one, I don’t think that’s really possible. Number two, even if it is, I’m willing to take that risk. I can mime or whatever.

5. I’m not necessarily learning ‘textbook Japanese’.
This may sound silly at first, but hear me out: if I don’t learn Japanese in the order that other people learn it, how will I find anything in common with other Japanese learners? I won’t know the same words. I won’t be as good at the polite form because I watch too much anime.

Okay it still sounds silly. Life’s too short to worry about such things.

So there you have it. Now if you’ll excuse me, my flash cards won’t review themselves, so I have to go now.

P.S. This is my first post from my new iPad. I’ve had a brief falling out with the undo button, but otherwise I’m in gadget heaven.


One thought on “5 Hesitations I Have About Teaching Myself Japanese, Plus Proof That None of Them Matter

  1. Pingback: みんあの日本語 [Minna No Nihongo] – Including Me | A Fantasy of Far Japan

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