Recently I was inspired to study Japanese. I was staying at a small hostel in Kobe when I met another foreigner. We chatted and he explained that he was also a JET and a CIR. CIR is a position held by a small number of JETs. A CIR works in the local government and therefore has to be fluent in Japanese. I asked him when he started his Japanese studies anticipating he would say elementary school. I was absolutely flummoxed when he told me he learned Japanese in his four years at university. He put his mind to it and made an effort and voila. Well, I’m sure it wasn’t that simple or easy but either way he is a CIR! In the last few months I have made an effort to self-study by using a small dictionary. When I hear a new word I highlight it and put in a sticky tab, and most days I review all the words. Of course I also try to use the words and I also study with my Japanese tutor once a week, but that is only for one hour at a time. I have started to finally make strides and meeting this JET made me decide to push forward with my JLPT. The lowest level is level 5, and the test is in December! I decided that to meet this goal I would need to increase my kanji reading ability. So I just purchased a kanji textbook and have been studying like mad. Level 5 indicates the most basic level of proficiency. Understanding basic sentences, grammar and vocabulary. However it is the stepping stone to fluency. As an applied linguistics major I have always been frustrated at the fact that I only speak one language fluently. I have studied German, Spanish, Illocano and Japanese but have only really made progress with Spanish. I am hoping one day to pursue Spanish to a level of greater understanding but for now I will focus my efforts on日本語. My benchmark will be my parents visit next year. Last year when they visited I managed to get us around but could read zero kanji and was often left confused by conversations. This year I hope to get us around with ease and impress them a little with my Japanese ability ;) I use a myriad of textbooks, but currently I am working through Japanese for Busy People, Japanese made Easy, The Tuttle Concise Japanese Dictionary and Write Now: Beginner Kanji.
Crossing my fingers for the JLPT! がんばって!