Becoming 'Sughoi' At Japanese

9:07 pm

First published July 17 2013 in MGOMD's Blog
A few years ago, my stance on learning Japanese was pretty straightforward. ‘Surely if I watched My Neighbour Totoro orCowboy Bebop enough times’, I thought,’ I would wake up one day and be totally ‘sughoi’ (awesome) at Japanese?’
However, after some heavy anime viewing, I had to accept that my plan was flawed.
I had learnt multiple ways of saying ‘revenge’, ‘cute’, ‘take care’, and ‘whyyyyyyyyy?’ but I was still far from being the Japanese Goddess I had envisioned.
The learning bursary gave me the incentive to go to my first formal Japanese class. After that fateful class, I went home with my head reeling.  I discovered that there are four scripts, one of which is just for loaned English words like ‘icu cureeamu’.  There are ten thousand kanji characters (stolen and created based on Chinese characters).  And there are about a gazillion rules.  The differences between the formal and informal ways of speaking are so strict that if you speak to your boss like a friend, you risk being in their bad books for life.
Any ‘kawaii’ (cute) aspects hidden in my Japanese curiosity were drilled out with mind boggling speed. But our sensei convinced us ‘to persevere in the way of the samurai – there would be unseen rewards’, she said.
She was right. Learning new languages not only arms you with new ‘language’ knowledge but also changes the way you perceive activities, cultures and whole countries!
Not only have I unearthed new layers of an extremely fascinating country, but I have also discovered that closer to home, London is teeming with Japanese events and activities.  Free film screenings on a rusty old projector at the Japanese Embassy,karaoke sessions behind a second hand manga bookshop, authentic and cheap sushi cafes, language exchanges, Japanese jazz concerts, free anime screenings, underground Japanese indie gigs… these are only some of the many Japanese things you can enjoy in this city, many of which are free!  Every event I go to teaches me something new about the country, which consequently feeds into my learning.
A few days ago, our sensei told us what the meaning of the kanji characters for ‘Sushi’ was. The first “Su” means happiness and the second “Shi” means to administer something. So ‘Sushi’ could mean administrator of happiness.
There are over ten thousand Japanese kanji characters to learn. So far I have learnt about a hundred. I have a long way to go.  But now that I have learnt about what the Japanese deem as administering happiness, I’m convinced that one day I will be totally ‘sughoi’ at ‘Nihongo’.

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