One of the first things people ask us is how we are coming along with the Japanese language ("Nihongo"), so I thought I would give a status update on that. We just finished our first semester of classes offered free of charge through the University. In addition to our kanji class, which only had four people in it and which I absolutely loved, we took a level 1 language course. There were about a dozen people in that class (below), all of whom were either grad students, researchers or significant others thereof. We learned a lot of grammar, a pretty nice volume of vocabulary and, to some varying degree, mastered the two forms of writing: hiragana (used for words of Japanese origin) and katakana (used for foreign words). Ryan is on the further edge of mastery of these alphabet systems. I still struggle. A lot.
I did so poorly on our final "quiz" (our grade doesn't affect anything but our egos), in fact, that I decided to take a whole new tack on this language study thing. I got out the local English magazine, Metropolis, and turned to the classified ads in the back. Nestled in between the columns of used household items for sale by people leaving the country (aka "sayonara sales") and the really creepy ads by people looking for all sorts of sordid things, I found a handful of nice requests by people looking for language exchange partners. I wrote to a few that were written by, and were specifically looking for, 30-something year old women.
I now have two really nice gals, each of whom I meet somewhat regularly over coffee or drinks. They couldn't be more different in terms of the things they like to chat about, but the one thing they have in common is that they are both incredibly patient with my halting, improper, painful abuse of their native language. How they manage to smile and nod and somehow discern my meaning while not wincing is beyond me, but with their encouragement and proper lubrication (left, overflowing sake from my language date with Atsuko), I am starting to at least feel a little more comfortable trying.
And at home, Ryan and I take turns reading and listening from the textbook. We also continue our self-study with Rosetta stone and the kanji flip program on Ryan's iphone. We plan to enroll in level 2 of both the kanji and language courses that start in April. The adventure continues!