Let’s Nihongo

I’m studying Japanese.

Huh? Didn’t you just leave Japan?

Yup, but you know what, I’ve come to a lot of realizations since leaving just over 4 months ago, and one of them is that I want to (and in fact, need to) always stay connected with that country, whether I’m physically there or not.

Considering the amount of time I lived there, people always assume I speak the language fluently, and that’s unfortunately not the case. I can certainly get by in casual conversations, but I was never able to really use it on a professional level – even though I’ve attended many a meeting held entirely in Japanese (I’d get the gist, but could never properly contribute as much as I wanted).

One of my biggest regrets – and that I’ve told every newcomer to Japan, often at a PauseTalk event – is that I didn’t properly study that language and give myself a good base in the early years. After that, well, life got in the way, and I decided to focus all my energy outside of what was my job at various times on developing personal projects and the like. But never to properly study.

And then I left Japan.

But hey, my wife is Japanese, and we still use a good amount of Japanese at home. And as I said, I still want to be able to do things in my life – on a personal level and a professional one – that relate to Japan, and so I’ve decided to finally sit down and give it the ol’ college try. I’m lucky enough to be currently working within a company that has strong Japanese roots – both with Shinra Technologies and parent company Square Enix – and I can already see how a better control of Japanese could come in handy.

The other inspiration is that my wife has been working very hard at improving her English, and seeing that, it made me feel like I owe it to her as well to better my Japanese. In a way, it creates a sort of competition, which can be good when you want to achieve something.

So my first target – since targets are very useful when studying, especially at this point in my life – is to shoot for the lowly Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) N3 level. My oral and hearing are much higher, but because of my lack of study, my kanji reading, vocabulary, grammar, and reading comprehension are all lacking. My next goal after that will be to pass the N2 test next year.

Funny enough, I ordered study books from Amazon Japan, and with regular shipping, they got here (to Montreal) in 3 days, which is faster than anything I’ve gotten delivered here from Amazon Canada (at the regular free shipping).

Japan, there are things you did that frustrated me, but the efficiency of your services – especially deliveries – was never one of them.

By Jean Snow

Production Services Manager at Ubisoft Shanghai. Before that, half a life spent in Tokyo.