I don’t want to sound pretentious, but for the last nine months I have been learning to speak a new language. You see, just over a year ago I went on a trip to Japan. I had booked it on impulse after an unexpected cash windfall. A friend of mine – who regards herself as being an enabler – said to me, “You’ve always wanted to go there. You’ve got the money. So, why not?” I couldn’t think of a good rebuttal. So, just before Easter last year, I found myself on a ten-day tour. I took a lot of photographs. I did a lot of tourist things. I also did some things that only made sense to me.
When I came back, I was grabbed by one of the people at my writing group. “What did you think of Japan?” she asked.
“It was a wonderful place,” I said. “But I didn’t see enough of it.”
“So, you’d like to go again?”
“Definitely. But I know I don’t want to go on a tour. There are so many places I still want to see.”
She nodded. “So, you’re going to have to speak Japanese,” she said. “I can teach you.”
It took a few months to get things set up – real life being the awful thing that it is – but Mo-sensei was as good as her word. In October last year I started to learn how to speak Japanese.
It has been a hard nine months. Mo-sensei started off by teaching me the hiragana and katakana. “You’ll need these,” she said. “You may never learn the kanji, but if you learn these then that will be a start.” Then she started drilling me on the simple things. Of course I made mistakes, and when I did Mo-sensei would nod, smile and correct me. We made our way through simple grammar and vocabulary. For one hour a week, we sat in her kitchen and followed the lessons. I put in an hour a day at home, writing out the characters and trying to commit the new words to memory. But, as well as words, Mo-sensei taught me Japanese manners and culture. “You’ll need these as well,” she said. “If you’re going to be on your own.”
At the start of July we reached an important milestone. “There you go,” Mo-sensei said, and opened the textbook halfway through at a page of Japanese. “You should be able to translate that.”
It took me all of the lesson to make my way down the page. At the end, Mo-sensei closed the textbook and smiled. “Very good. At least you won’t disgrace yourself in public.”
After nine months, I’m not fluent by any means. I know enough Japanese to ask simple questions. I even know enough to maybe understand the answers – provided you speak slowly to me.
And I’ve got another year to get better!
OMP Admin Note: John Nedwill is a writer, OMP Network member, and a regular #OneMillionProject Blogger. His work can be found on Wattpad.com and in the One Million Project’s Short Story Anthologies published in February 2018.
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