Essay by Bakasensei
Which Nihongo are you learning?
I started studying Japanese acoule of years ago through every book I could find at Barnes & Noble. I also searched the www and gleaned what I could from many site, but progress was quite slow. I late 2004, I got the bright idea to acquire a penpal from Japan, hoping to see the proverbial light. To a certain extent, I did. My penpal, with whom I still communicate, was a large help, correcting sentences and offering help. At the time, she was an English teacher (JP native) and had studied abroad. As I started trying some of my newfound knowlege, I noticed that I was being corrected often, raising many questions like "Who should I trust for opinions on Japanese, people on the internet or a teacher living in Nagoya?"
As always, the plot thickens....
I was fortunate enough to begin studying Japanese with one of the kindest humans I've ever met. I travel almost an hour (one way) weekly to take a 2 - 3hour lesson with a 67-year old widow from Tokyo, who has two earned degrees in Japanese. She has a remarkable story, growing up at the end of WWII in Tokyo. I will elaborate on her life another day, but the focus here is on a quote she made during an early lesson.
Per my sensei, there are some constants in Japan.
1) Many young people get frustrated with school, do not pass college entrance exams, forget about cram school, and work. This was especially common among Japanese females currently in my age range (too close to 40). As with many in the US, any schooling (including proper grammar) is forgotten ASAP.
2) Many young women in Japan following the aforementioned characteristics, work only as long as it takes them to find a husband. This is effectionately known in some educated Japanese circles as "Barmaid Syndrome." Draw your own conclusions...
3) Following the stats of points 1 and 2, some young Japanese women find romance in the form of American GI's or businessmen. They marry, move to the US, divorce within 3 years, and return to Japan, accidentally learning a good bit of English in the process.
With these 3 points in mind, my teacher made the statement "In Japan, they will let any Barmaid teach English." Suddenly, the "teacher in Japan" status was declining in my eyes. Still a nice person to communicate with, but what about trusting for knowledge?
After closely studying my situation and the Japanese language, I came to the conclusion that I was picking up "lazy' Japanese from my penpal, but learning "formal" Japanese from my teacher. Which is best? If you watch enough anime, drama, and film from Japan, you will hear both. I have been fortunate enough to encounter local Japanese families through a Japanese Saturday School, and the consensus opinion would be this: learn formal, proper japanese, and you will never go wrong.
I would hope that most people's JP interests go beyond anime, with an end result being either making Japanese friends or travelling to Japan as my family will next summer. My advice to anyone learning the language is keep an open mind, especially when receiving help from someone. Correctness can vary upon the respondant's education, upbringing, and regional dialect.
I hope this was thought provoking and an interesting read.
Article written by Bakasensei. All rights reserved.
Now I speak a weird Japanese that's a mix of normal formal Japanese and Nagoya-ben (i.e. I'll sometimes add 'da gaya' and use 'he' in a weird way).