I am new here and would like to introduce myself.
I am a native english speaker who has been attempting to speak Japanese for about the past 9 years with little or no improvement.
I started learning in one of the usual ways by listening to some Pimseuler tapes that my older brother gave me, (he had been studying Japanese for a year when I started.) Because I am an audio learner, (and a sound designer by profession), I was able to pick up the accent fairly easily which gave me an immediate boost of confidence. I soon bought the “Let’s learn Hiragana” book and picked up the alphabet while I was at it. It seemed very easy and I could actually read some Japanese!
I asked my brother for a book recommendation and he told me about “Essential Japanese” by Berlitz as it was the book he used. I bought this book and dug into the first chapter. This is when I started to slow down. I was fine reading the dialogs and learning the patterns and phrases, but as soon as I got to the fill in the blank test portions my brain froze. It probably has something to do with some anxiety I have from grade school. I moved ahead of this portion learned a couple more dialogs and then hit the part about counting and telling time. Brain freeze again. Now this I know is related to my grade school days as math was like torture for me, and since then numbers in any language make my brain go all hazy.
So it was about that time I quit the formal study. I tried to carry on poking around other bits of the book but I seemed to just stop learning. Then I moved to L.A. with my brother and lived in a house with a Japanese family. They would rent the rooms out to Japanese students. This is where I started learning around the house Japanese, greetings, phrases, familiar and casual talk. Also met some girlfriends there who taught me more japanese albeit mostly feminine. Over time I began watching Japanese movies, traveling to Japan, and watching some online lessons. All the while picking up words and clever bits of trivia to startle the natives but never really learning how to speak Japanese.
Very recently my company sent me to Japan to work for about 6 weeks. I knew it was going to be bad. I thought I would at least be able to get by but boy was I sorry I didn’t study all these years. After the 6 weeks my japanese did start improving as I was carrying on conversations about things I liked, (talked about music with a guy in a bar for about 3 hours in Japanese), and converse with coworkers mixing in Japanese english all along the way, but I was still deeply depressed by how much I had failed to learn. When I arrived back in the U.S. I knew I needed to start studying again.
The hard part is how to go back and look for the missing bits of the language I speak, (er, sort of), while enduing the torture of running over the same old ground which I speak quite naturally. Some of my japanese is so natural in fact that Japanese folks are amazed and think I am fluent based on the sound alone. I attribute this to the living situation which has included Japanese friends or roommates, girlfriends, for about the last 9 years. But of course beyond the most natural sounding greetings and phrases I might manage, (I instinctively say “ittai” instead of “ow” when I am in pain), my language falls apart quickly and I have to say in my very native sounding Japanese accent, “I’m sorry but I do not speak Japanese well.”
So after lurking about here, reading the posts, and watching all the polyglot videos on youtube, I finally decided to start over! I actually put in four hours of study tonight. Thats more than , ever I think. I broke out my JLPT 4 book and started from the beginning. I copied sentences that I understood but but knew contained grammatical mysteries, then I probed for possible questions whose answers might solidify these words and phrases into some kind of foundation on which to begin rebuilding my Japanese. This took about two hours.
Just at this time a Japanese Skype friend of mine called and I thought, “Hey! Now I have someone who can answer my questions!” We then talked inside and out of the many possibilities of saying “I did something” versus “this is the thing which I did”, things that should be simple but for me were unknown all these years. I have to say that after the two hours and much note taking I feel like I have already put a sizable dent in my Japanese re-learning.
Becoming a polyglot is a nice thought but I think I need to re-learn how to learn first. In the future I am interested in learning Spanish, (I was raised with it a bit), Russian ( I was amazing at how much I already knew at 16 after reading “A Clockwork Orange”), and Quechua, (What can I say I am a sound designer and therefore a “Star Wars” nerd). First things first! Anyone out there speaking or learning Japanese please share your wisdom. I think my situation is not so normal but then again maybe it is. Would love to hear everyones experiences.
Great to be here and great to be tackling my L2 proper!