I don’t speak Japanese.
Quite a shocking truth, I know. Okay, maybe it’s not so shocking. After all, it would probably be a safe bet to say that, in most cases, people who study a martial art don’t speak the native language of the country from which the art originated. In Kokikai, we use fewer Japanese terms than in other forms of aikido. This is in large part because of Sensei’s interest in Kokikai being an international martial art. It’s probably also due in part to the fact that Japanese is a difficult language to learn for many, and learning it does not mean one has a better understanding of Kokikai (or any other martial art, for that matter).
However, I have always found the Japanese language to be fascinating, and definitely one that I would like to learn even if I never had started my Kokikai studies. I’ve also been fortunate to meet two friends, both american, who are fluent in Japanese. Both of them, independently, gave me the following advice regarding learning the language:
- Move to Japan.
- Study for 10 years.
- Give up.
Very encouraging, isn’t it?
But just because something is difficult to do, doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try! That attitude has helped me make the transition from teaching at a YMCA to having a full-time dojo and keeps me plugging away at understanding tsuki kotegaeshi. Also, the fact that this Fall I’m helping host an International Convention of Kokikai students–many of whom are coming from Japan–has given me some incentive to learn at least a little Japanese. Perhaps in 10 years, I may give up, but I’ll deal with that when the time comes.
Since I don’t have the time to go to school again, I’ve been looking at different ways of learning Japanese. One option is software from Rosetta Stone–available at a mall kiosk near you! While I have heard good things about this program, and could likely purchase the software as a business expense, I have cringed a bit at shelling out $300 for the product. There are many free sites available, but most of these are text only–I need to hear the language if I’m ever going to be able to speak even a little of it.
Right now, then, I have settled on trying out a web site I found: www.japanesepod101.com. I’ve already listened to their first “lesson”: it focused on saying “How are you?” and introducing yourself. The sites podcasts seem to be free, but they charge for lesson notes, which I think are important. (I’d hate to think I’m saying how are you, only to find that I misheard the podcast!) I have no illusions that I will be fluent in Japanese through the use of this web site; but if I can move myself from “barely understand a word of it outside the dojo” to “I can speak a small smattering of it,” well, I think that would be a good start.
I’m interest in anyone else’s opinions on learning Japanese–what resources you used, and so on. Feel free to let me know what you think.