Monday, December 12, 2016

Learning Japanese

After I graduated from college, it was hubby’s turn to start studying. He’d spent a lot of time on English as second language classes, and he was able to transfer into a community college. He took classes that prepared non-English speakers for college. They had a class on note taking, and a class on essay writing, giving them all of the skills they would need to succeed in an academic setting.

I was working at the time, but as I started going through the class catalog, I realized that I’d never actually taken a class for fun. Every single class I’d ever taken was either for my degree, or mandatory to graduate. I decided to audit a Japanese class, because I’d always wanted to learn Japanese and understand that part of my heritage.

My teacher was from Japan. In fact, she didn’t know a word of English, so my first day of class, I sat there and stared at her while she talked nonstop in a language I didn’t understand. Most of my class had a basic idea because most of them had been obsessed with Japanese Anime growing up, so they knew basic words and phrases. I hadn’t grown up watching anything in Japanese, and my mom didn’t speak the language, so it could have been Greek or Mongolian for all I knew.

I don’t think I’ve ever had to think so hard for a class before. Not just because I was trying to understand what she was teaching, but I was also trying to translate it into something I could remember. Translating, especially in a new language, can be mentally exhausting.

One of the most surprising results of this mental fatigue was that after each class, I found I couldn’t speak English for several hours. The only language I could use was Spanish, and I think it’s because I’d been trying to translate English into Japanese and vice versa for an hour. Once my brain could relax, it couldn’t access the English anymore.

How about the rest of you? Any odd experiences while learning a new language?