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I’d Rather Be Learning JavaScript

July 27, 2015
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When I started this blog I really thought it would be more about my struggles to learn the Japanese language. I made a good start at learning and for about four weeks I studied about an hour a day. Then we went on the farewell tour and I had more interesting things to do and blog about.

Realistically I think I am 2 years away from being conversational in Japanese. If I really apply myself. That is a very long term goal that doesn’t seem to break down very easily. I can chop up the learning into small groups of words and kanji, but it still feels like I am talking like a toddler raised by ferrets (Japanese ferrets of course).

Most of the languages I have learned in my life are not spoken to other people, but to computers and there is a nice incremental feedback loop with almost all programming languages. I can get the computer to talk back to me within just a few hours (minutes?). After a few weeks or months with a new language I can create something that looks like it might be useful. As an added bonus the computer very rarely laughs at you when you mispronounce a word and ask for “directions to the closest duck house.” In that instance if the computer knows where a duck lives it tells you and waits for you to ask another question. I keep waiting for an aha moment when I figure out how to apply my ability to learn new programming languages to learning Japanese. If it ever happens I’ll let you know.

My father studied Japanese full time for a year before our family moved there and most of it still seems to be floating around in his brain. During my studying I have sent him a few questions. His response is usually a quick and informative, but I knew I was in trouble after he answered my question trying to clarify the Japanese articles, Wa, O, and Ga.

His answer:
O is usually used with a direct object. Wa/Ga is inscrutable for gaijin!
First, I looked up what a direct object is. Then I let the horrible feeling sink in that I could study this language for years and never really understand it.
[07/29/2015 Update: In an effort to further procrastinate learning Japanese I did start learning Javascript. I’m using Codecademy and freeCodeCamp.]

Kanji for the day: 学生     がくせい     gakusei     student

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 27, 2015 10:35 pm

    I took JFL at ASIJ for 6 years – got to about 3rd or 4th year level – 20 years later finally got the hang of it. I think of は as a topic marker and が as a subject marker. So if you say ぼくはえいががおもしろいとおもいます。 it can be translated as “As for me, I think movies are interesting.”

    One of the key things that was never taught to me is that in Japanese, the verb comes last, so SOV (subject/object/verb) as opposed to SVO like English (and Chinese). The particles are nuts and I didn’t get those until recently – they kind of mark off parts of speech or even whole clauses. The whole system actually makes a lot of sense! Just takes a long time to internalize…

  2. July 27, 2015 10:25 pm

    To be honest a lot of the intricacies (the wa/ga mystery, where to stick an o) are things that are much more efficiently learned just being here in the country and getting exposed to nonstop speech. So you’re headed in the right direction to jumpstart your learning program.

    The other part of the mix: once you get here, you learn pretty quickly that the intricacies can be left for later, since early on you’re going to be using simple combinations of verbs and nouns to put your thoughts together. No sense in plunging into the deep end of the pool right away!

  3. Janet Koplos permalink
    July 27, 2015 10:17 pm

    Well, when we lived there (and never learned conversational Japanese), the wisdom was that you only mastered it if you had a “walking dictionary,” i.e., a Japanese girlfriend or boyfriend. I don’t think that’s an option for you!

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