Tuesday, January 17, 2012

"This is so exciting, you can totally do it."

My sister has a friend who learned (as I recall hearing) Japanese by simply watching Japanese TV. I have been wanting to pry a bit into her process, as she eventually went to Japan and wound up being successful in her language-learning venture. Until I get anything close to a real interview, here is the majority of the conversation we had on g-chat today. It made me happy and hopeful:

Words in italics are words I have added to clarify things.

question for you...
or... in fact... many questions
you learned japanese mainly through watching anime?
how did that process go?
just curious
Friend: I would say that the J-Dramas (Japanese dramas) help a lot more than anime because you can see the people forming the sounds.
Me: just wondering about how you did it. subtitles?
Friend: Yes, I watched subtitled shows and I listened to A LOT of J-Pop (Japanese pop music).
Sometimes my roommate and I would make subtitles for music videos as well.
Are you going to start studying Japanese?
Me: nope. i'm sort of addicted to the idea of korean
because i love the alphabet system
Friend: It goes in circles!
I mean each character is read in a circle, right?
Me: not a circle per se
as a block
each block is a syllable
and very phonetic
really clever, actually
and very easy to read
Friend: Yes, I love that exact thing about Japanese.
Me: is it phonetic too?
Friend: Yup.
Me: oh, how come i didn't remember that?!
Friend: Well, they have three writing systems and two of them are phonetic.
Me: yeah, three--sheesh
well, technically, koreans have to learn a certain base number of chinese characters as well... just like the japanese
Friend: This is so exciting, you can totally do it.
Me: how proficient did you get?
just by listening all the time?
were you conversational before going to japan?
Friend: I got to the point where I could watch a drama without subtitles and understand almost all of it.
Me: nice!!!!!
how many years did that take? a whole year?
Friend: Yeah, about that.
But my speaking skills were only so-so until I went to Japan and started talking to actual Japanese people.

Friend: I'm told that the grammar of Japanese and Korean are very similar.
Maybe we can study it together sometime!
Me: nice
Friend: We shall reconvene on this topic.

While searching online for videos to show her of some K-pop (Korean pop music), I came across a video of one of my favorite Korean actors speaking Japanese. He looks a little out of his element, but I have no idea what he's saying. I wish I knew whether he is actually cracking jokes, or if his Japanese is so bad that everyone's cracking up. It sounds like he says "piano" around 3:22 and "fried chicken" a few seconds later.

It made me wonder if it is just as common for Asians living in Asia to know neighboring Asian languages as it is for Europeans to know neighboring European languages... or for Americans to know European languages, for that matter. I suppose I always thought that there would be more of a barrier in Asia, since the writing systems are all very distinct and not shared across languages. At least with European languages, they not only share writing systems, but they share much of the vocabulary (in the form of cognates) as well. Cognates (English/Spanish/French)= Enchanted (to meet you)! ¡Encantada!

Quite on the opposite end of the spectrum, I stumbled upon the blog of a man named Benny whose language approach is the opposite of the TV Method I am trying with Korean. He starts speaking right away! He's very dedicated and makes a lot of sense. I invite you to check out his blog, Fluent in 3 months, and watch his videos. He's learning Mandarin.

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