Friday, June 12, 2009

A Little Jaded

As good as it can be, its never as good as you want it to be.

The last few days I have been I have been thinking about my disappointment in my Japanese. I've been here two and a half months, and I am still so incapable of communicating in Japanese it is embarrassing. When I first got here, I had no inhibitions. I would say whatever, speak to Japanese students the best as I could. But that seemed to go away quickly. Almost all of my close friends here are exchange students...sadly not so much Japanese people. That's not to say I don't have any, it just seems like I tend to hang out with foreigners more.

I am kinda jaded with Japanese, or at least my lack thereof. Its really sad for me to come to grips with my struggles with the language. I probably set my sights too high, but I still find myself in everyday situations unable to communicate or basically survive. I am so disappointed in myself. This has been one of the few clouds raining on my parade. Everyday I am reminded of how bad my Japanese is.

I have found, and have heard from others as well, how unforgiving Tokyo is compared to other areas of Japan. No doubt it is just part of the lifestyle and fast-paced nature of the city, but Tokyo is not really that English-friendly, or at least not as much as you would think it is. There are some exceptions, but from my experiences even when Tokyo people know that you don't have much of a grasp of the language, they don't make too much of an effort to slow their pace down. I really have not been too tough on Japanese people, but I feel like this is a legitimate critique of Tokyo culture. I suppose it is comparable to New York City (I'm not particularly fond of NYC). The Kansai area has more a reputation of being laid-back (lol having many of the comedians coming from that side) and I can totally see the difference.

I guess I have just been hard on myself lately because Jenna is here next week. I am meeting Reese's relatives in Yokohama next week and this was kinda the deadline I set for myself. I figured by this point I should have my confidence up to a point where I could communicate with Reese and Jenna's relatives competently or at least on some kind of basic level.

Unfortunately I have found myself moving in the other direction. Everyday I fail in Japanese on some level. Some days more than others, but the combined effects of inadequacy day after day have taken a toll on me. I have come to feel like I can't win in this language game. If I speak English, I can get my point across, but they probably won't understand, I'll look like a total gaijin, and I'll feel silly for using English in Japan, when I can speak a little Japanese. But at times it seems worse to me to try to speak Japanese, because the chances for me actually being able to communicate are so slim it borderlines a 10% rate if it can even be considered that high...

Perhaps the worst thing about it for me is that fact that Japanese confirms my identity as a gaijin. As much as I try to distance myself from foreigners, especially all the strange ones that are here, I really am no better than them. I can pass as Japanese until I open my mouth. I can look it, be full Japanese, have a Japanese surname, etc. but in the end it really doesn't count for anything. The language barrier and identity associated with it confirms that I don't belong here, both to me and to Japanese people.

I also have a really bad tendency to compare myself with others. I know in my head that it is not logical, but it always seems to happen anyway. A couple of my friends here (Travis and Val especially) are soo unbelievably good at Japanese it puts me to shame. I know I need to judge myself against myself, but it is hard for me to see myself struggling so much when others are absolutely exceeding all expectations. I have a combination of jealousy and envy for all the exchange students that seem to be doing so well here. Or at least everyone doing better than me. I'm happy for them, but just wish I was on the same level they are.

This is probably all just part of the burn out. But I really have let myself down on this. Its a cumulative failure. I wish I tried harder at Japanese in high school, college, and here. So many regrets are eating me up. How much better would I be? I never even spoke to Reese in Japanese before getting here because I was too embarrassed.

I know I just have to start from the ground up. Its just so hard. My confidence is shot right now...


  1. Hey don't be so hard on yourself!

    To be fair Japanese is the hardest language in the world in my opinion. The more you learn, the more you realize just how much you do not know. It's one of those things that unless you're born with it you will never fully grasp. Not even REESE will ever be truly fluent since he wasnt raised in Japan! (lol sorry Reese...)

    Just remember at the end of the day, there is ALWAYS someone better than you. That just means you gotta work harder! Get a lanugage partner, buy kanji books at the bookstore and study on your spare time, study to pass the JLPT, attempt to read words on the subway every ride home and look up the ones you don't know!

    If you earnestly work at it with all your heart I absolutely promise you you'll be where you want to be. だから頑張れ!あきらめるな!みんな応援してるから!

  2. laur! I agree^^ don't be so hard on yourself!! There have been many times that I've felt what you are feeling now...why I didn't try harder at home (I hate the question how long have you been studying!!) and just wanting to give up at the end of the day, but just take it one day at a time. If you feel burnt out, try not to think about it, and just start fresh the next morning!

    AND I bet your Japanese is better than you think too!! It's so hard to judge your own progress and if anything, our expectations for ourselves are the highest! 自信持って!来週、会うのが楽しみにしてる~日本語で話そう!(あぁ、勉強しないと...頑張ろうね!)

  3. Keep your chin up and keep chugging along! Remember the little engine that could!