Learning to Speak Japanese: Frustration 101

Image source: http://www.levanatech.com/learn_japanese_language

One of the things we know is that a positive attitude toward a subject we wish to learn contributes greatly to our success in that endeavor. Successful language acquisition depends on two main factors: the motivation of the student and the opportunity to use the language in in a real situation.

However, nothing kills motivation faster than boredom, frustration or other negative emotional states such as fear and anxiety when it comes to language acquisition. Those interfere with a student’s receptivity to input, the ability to process that input and perform successfully when output is required. Whether on a test or in conversation, when in a negative emotional state students often freeze or go blank.

I find myself in that state many times now as I prepare for my upcoming  3-month stay in Tokyo. The four and one half month interval before my departure will pass quickly. Certainly more quickly than my capacity to acquire proficient Japanese.

Image credit to Tokyo Skytree Website. http://www.tokyo-skytree.jp/en/

I’m seriously motivated to improve my limited Japanese language skills. However, to endlessly repeat phrases aloud is too tedious to endure no matter how often I remind myself that the average person requires 50 repetitions of a thing to acquire it.

Worse, to blank out over something that I know I know aggravates me to no end. Finding no reward for my effort I enter a debilitating cycle. I avoid the practice which guarantees even less success.

Unable to find much reward, at least I can find fault. A highly underrated pleasure and delightful compensation, that.

How long have people been teaching Japanese? Why isn’t there a logical program for Japanese conversation that teaches people what they might need to say as well as what they might hear in response in various day-to-day situations they might encounter? Seems only logical doesn’t it? However, it also seems that it doesn’t exist.

For example, in the first CD program I acquired, I had not been taught to state my name, say hello or pleased to meet you before I learned to say Would you like to have a drink at my place? What kind of trouble do Japanese language programs wish to start?

Since I’d paid $300 for the program I completed it and managed to patch a bit of useful stuff together. However, it was nothing that would rescue a woman who might invite a nameless stranger for drinks. Thanks for that.

Though I have made considerable progress with some of the niceties since, the source I am presently using isn’t much better. It’s teaching me to ask: What is your favorite Japanese word?  Or say Sugar is not as cheap as salt in Japan. Neither is a sentence that is remotely useful to a beginner who is still looking for material to fill the first 10 minutes after Pleased to meet you. What could I say after that to a newly introduced person? Let me guess: Would you like to have a drink at my place?

Image source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/237916792794224477/














By now I’m sure some of you are thinking that I ought to hire a private tutor. I did. Several hundred dollars later that also proved fruitless. My sensei seemed on board with my desire to  learn practical phrases I could memorize for such situations I might encounter as I traveled through Japan.

However, after an hour it was clear that my sensei was not comfortable without a text book or set lesson plans. Before the end of the second hour we were into her agenda, conjugating way more verbs than I needed to know at the time.

At my sensei’s urging and because she assured me it was practical, I bought Japanese for Busy People: Volume I. Lesson One plunged me into an office with a lawyer, engineer, student and secretary from the USA, Germany and China. Though that lesson, too, failed to move beyond Pleased to meet you. On the bright side, if I had been tempted to drinks with the lawyer or engineer, at least I knew their names.

Lesson Two yanked me out of the office and threw me into a drawer containing keys, a cell phone, a book, an umbrella, a newspaper and a wrist watch with this is and that is exercises. Somewhat useful, I’ll admit, but not what I asked for. I got more disappointment out of that venture than my money’s worth.

Because the book cost me a few bucks I persisted with the accompanying CD and the written exercises (but not the sensei) before calling it quits 50 pages in. Not a lot of it stuck. I can recognize the fill-in-the-blanks words when I reread them, but there’s no quick recall necessary for conversation. That said, I may have given up too soon. I certainly didn’t give it the 50 repetitions an average person requires to learn something.

Lately I’ve been cherry-picking through short YouTube videos and other online materials. Some are quite helpful but often so mind-numbing that I can’t stay interested. Alas, brevity fails to make tedium more palatable. Nor does the absence of any logical progression in a sequence of thought which a conversation might require. Even so, I have persevered in spite of it.

The latest series I’ve stumbled upon has the social niceties (after introductions and names) in this order: May I call you? Do you like it here? I love you. Will I see you again? Are you married? Oops. Now that’s an amusing hiccough in sequence. Still, you have to concede that it’s a step up from drinks at my place after a still nameless encounter.

Recently I learned the phrase Nanika otetsudai shimasho ka. (Can I help you with something?) Oh yes, please! Do help me find a rewarding way to learn useful Japanese. And, oh yes! Pour me that drink. I’m more than content to drink alone.

This entry was posted in Japan, Travel & Culture and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Learning to Speak Japanese: Frustration 101

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.