JapanEASY: Learning Japanese in a week
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こんにちは、私の名前は、いくつかの日本のダニエルであり、ここにあります！ (Hello, my name is Daniel and here’s some Japanese!) Pretty impressive, right? Am I right? I’m right. Well here we are again: JAPAN. Except this time I’m taking Japanese lessons. That’s right! LESSONS, courtesy of the jolly good people at ESL - Language Travel (thanks, guys.) I came from Seoul to begin my stay in Japan – Kobe, specifically, where I am staying with a lovely host family. I made the mistake early on of thinking Kobe is pronounced ‘Kobe’, as in Kobe Bryant. It’s actually pronounced ‘Kobeh’, as in the way people from Manchester say Kobe. Kobe is a bloody huge place, but it became apparent early on that there wasn’t a great deal going on. Every local suggested I go and look at Kobe Port Tower, so I went and did that and it took about an hour. After that, I sat down with a lager and looked at the water in various spots around the harbour. Even my host family, who have lived in Kobe their whole lives, couldn’t think of anything else to see in the city. This is the sixth-largest city in Japan but apparently just has one landmark. Although the sixth largest city in the UK is Bradford, which doesn’t fare much better. But Kobe is on the coast and has famous beef, so surely there must be something else – or was this just Kobe’s citizens being famously modest? Do they play some kind of game where you have to find the landmarks for yourself? I went and looked at the beef for a while and that turned out to be even less exciting that it sounds. I decided I’d have a look around. I immediately found the ‘Anpanman museum’, which is a museum dedicated to Anpanman; one of Japan’s most beloved children’s characters. Anpan is a bean-jam filled pastry. So Anpanman is pretty much just a piece of bread. In most episodes, he fights with the bad guy and generally has a good patrol around the area surrounding Uncle Jam’s house. He really runs a tight ship – and it’s just as well because the crime levels in the area Uncle Jam lives are far above those for other areas of Japan. Anyway, he seems to generally save the day and if anything goes wrong, Uncle Jam bakes him a new head. There’s also a dog called Cheese who Anpanman once fed part of his head to and now they’re best mates. Not quite Spiderman, but it seems to work. I wouldn’t say I’d rush back to the museum, but I think I figured out why he’s so popular. Maybe... I couldn’t understand a lot of what was going on and not much is translated to English. It’s estimated that there are around 15,000 British people in the world who speak Japanese. There are about 66 million British people so, realistically, you’re more likely to become a professional athlete than a Japanese speaker. Also, that means that over 65 million of us are missing out on Anpanman. There are nearly 100,000 Japanese people living in the UK, so odds are you know one! Also, least-Japanese-looking-man-ever Iain Duncan Smith’s great-grandmother was Japanese. I know, I’m as shocked as you are. I know quite a few Britons and Americans living in Japan and their proficiency with Japanese is varied. Some have been here for three years and are fluent (nerds); some have been here for twenty years and can barely get through an interaction with a cashier. Apparently, it usually takes about six years to become completely fluent in Japanese, which is longer than an elephant’s gestation period, the time it takes to become a doctor, shoot half of Boyhood, grow a lemon tree, and other stuff. One of the things I learnt with Japanese is that sometimes it’s quicker to just draw the word you’re trying to get at, rather than actually write it. For example, here is a picture of a car I drew. Just above it is how you write ‘car’ in Japanese. The drawing took about a tenth of the time. And I must admit it’s a bloody good car. The thing with being in Japan is, nearly everything is translated into English so perfectly that you don’t really have to learn Japanese. I noticed this early on and wondered whether I really needed to even go to lessons.
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