Tag Archive | words are hard

The Long And Short Of Why I Want To Travel Far And Wide

There are some things in this world that I shouldn’t have to explain.

Maybe I should rephrase that. There are things in this world that can go without an explanation.

No, that’s still not quite right. What about, once a person has made a few mistakes in life, they start to learn from them and can probably make better-informed decisions later on?

Well, I’ve made enough mistakes with this introduction. I guess all that’s left is to explain a few things. It seems counterproductive compared to the intro I was going for. Or, did I do everything as I wanted to do, and it’s now exactly what I was thinking?

Plotting and scheming aside, the point I’m trying to make is that I sometimes feel criticized for wanting to go to Japan. While it hasn’t been said in so few words, the statements come down to things like, “you should give up on going, I can’t understand why you would want to go to Japan, you will be disappointed when you get there.” I usually hear, “do you have to go now? Can you wait 10, 15, 20 years?” Why should I wait? I’m not getting any younger, my body isn’t becoming any more capable. I already have to wait until I get enough money put aside, and that wait will be long enough. But when I hear people ask why I can’t put off the dream of going, I feel like they’re really asking why I can’t give up on going altogether.

Clearly, I need new friends. Or I’m overthinking things.

The short answer is, Japan makes me happy. I feel like people who care about me should want me to be happy.

Why does Japan make me happy? It just does. I can’t really explain it, and I know if I try to explain it, I might lose the magic. But of course, I apparently need to explain the whole thing.

It didn’t start with Wakkanai.

My Dad was stationed in Wakkanai while he was in the Air Force. I don’t remember if there were slides. For you kiddies out there, slides are basically physical photos that you can shine light through, and you put a tray of them on a special projector to help a room full of people fall asleep quickly. Anyway, that’s not important right now. He was in the Air Force as a Russian linguist. For you kiddies, the United States had a grudge against Russia for a number of years, and it was called the Cold War. My Dad basically translated radio transmissions.

When his time had ended over there, he brought home some stereo equipment that probably still works to this day. I was raised with the knowledge that Japanese electronics were superiorly made in comparison to American electronics. I watched the movie Gung Ho, and admired the Japanese work ethic. I think I watched Big Bird Goes To Japan as a child. But, I barely knew anything about Japan, I barely had an interest in Japan.

I had an interest in the Moon.

By the time I became a teenager, I loved looking up at the moon and stars. Astrology interested me, and I learned that my sign, Aries, was a fire sign. And then I was flipping through the channels on TV one afternoon and saw a cartoon with these girls who defended Earth in the name of the name of the moon or one of the planets. I saw a bit of myself in the title character, Sailor Moon, but my favorite character soon became the one who’s a fellow Aries, Sailor Mars. When they weren’t saving the day, they were living their lives in and around Tokyo.

I started watching Tenchi Muyo as well, and even a bit of Yu Yu Hakusho. Eventually I watched Fullmetal Alchemist.

One time, I was near the comic and gaming store and decided to drop in. I found manga, and bought one book as that was all I could afford at the time. But after I started working and driving, one volume of manga turned into over one hundred. I was a bit addicted.

When I was still in college, though, I started getting into L’arc en Ciel. I remember looking up song lyrics and translations in the computer rooms while I was between classes or after I had finished up whatever I was working on. After I graduated, I bought an iPod while working at my first job, and I had some Sowelu and Utada Hikaru songs along with some L’arc on there.

It wasn’t an interest in Japan, just in Japanese media, but I was happy. Life seemed to be going well for me, I had both of my parents, I had started working and had a car to get around.

And then I met a guy.

When I first met him, he kind of had a significant other. She didn’t really want him, and had ended things with him by the time I saw him again. They were both at a party that one of my friends was hosting, and I was there as well for no reason other than I was invited to a party. He was there because his now-ex was going to be there, but he felt a need to heal his wounds by getting drunk and crying on the sofa. I had knelt down next to the sofa, the armrest being all that separated me from his feet. I wanted to help, I wanted to be supportive. He ended up calling one of his friends who drove over and picked him up to bring him home.

This guy’s life was a bit of a wreck. Someone broke into his station wagon and stole things from him. He was driving a station wagon because that’s all he could afford at the time, and it was already falling apart. He was also living with his brother, who looked Korean. He actually looked Japanese to me, but was apparently half Irish and half Korean. His brother had a different father and was full Korean, if memory serves me correctly.

Not that it mattered what he was, because to me he looked pretty good. I really didn’t feel worthy of being around him. Oh, I should mention that after checking up on him the next day, one thing led to another and I started going over to his place nearly every day. I thought things were going somewhere, but I had never had a boyfriend before and I had nothing to base my experiences on.

One day, he started talking about looking at newer cars, and had his heart set on one at a local dealership. Knowing his struggles, I did what any foolish girl would do. Well, because I felt a bit guilty for enjoying Japanese stuff while I had an interest in an Asian guy, I sold the manga and gave him the money to put towards the car.

After about a month, he didn’t want to see me anymore. I learned a lot in that one month, more than I really care to explain. But I lost my interest in manga, and my interest in everything else waned as well.

The second time wasn’t as good.

Eventually, I bought more manga, though my collection wasn’t as impressive as it originally had been. I didn’t read the volumes as often or as quickly. But I met a guy at work who became a bit of a friend, nothing more. To some degree, he got me back into anime, but I wasn’t as interested as before.

I went to an anime convention with him, my second ever anime convention. I remember feeling like I had outgrown anime. I was surrounded by people cosplaying characters that I didn’t recognize. There were anime titles I had never heard of. The finest moment was meeting Vic Mignogna, voice actor extraordinaire (seriously, look him up on IMDB or something, he’s in nearly every English-dubbed anime you can think of). Aside from that, the day was a bit of a waste.

Eventually, I was rescued…  by food.

While working at a well-known grocery store, I bought The Manga Cookbook. Unfortunately my ingredients were limited, and I could barely make anything in the book despite the grocery store having an Asian food section with imported goods. I did try my hand at making udon noodles, though, which turned out alright.

While working that job, I lost my Mom, which caused me to move to New Jersey. Okay, a lot of things caused me to move to New Jersey, most of which were bad decisions. While I was living in New Jersey, my boyfriend at the time introduced me to Mitsuwa Marketplace. At first I was interested in going, but after going I was in ecstasy! All the ingredients I couldn’t find before, I could find at Mitsuwa! And there was a bookstore nearby where I could buy manga in the original Japanese! And I spent more money than I should have, but it was necessary.

I returned a few more times after that. I always made sure that I ate something from the food court, because there was no way I’d be able to make anything that tasted quite like it should. I loved the feeling I had while I was there. I came home after my first visit, and realized that I didn’t have any L’arc songs in iTunes, just a couple of Hyde’s songs. I started tracking down all of L’arc’s albums on Amazon and eBay, which gave me a bit of an endorphin rush when I bought another album and when it finally arrived.

I had forgotten how happy I once was to listen to Japanese rock and pop music. I listened to Horizon, and it reminded me of a dream I once had. But the food also made me happy, because everything was new, and everything I tried was amazing.

Japan was where I needed to be.

The search for a job can make anyone go a bit insane. The thought eventually popped into my head that I could move to and work in Japan, so that became the plan before I even knew what I was getting myself into. But a plan like that is good to have when you think of all the angles, and in my case I realized that my then-fiance and I were two entirely different people. Ignoring what I had to consider for myself, I realized I couldn’t have my fiancé travel with me to Japan because the flight would be too lengthy for him to deal with his disability, and then he probably wouldn’t want to go out and do anything with me once we were there. Not only that, but leaving him behind meant that we were back to having a long-distance relationship.

I like to think that the entirety of that discussion was one of the many factors why we broke up. Our relationship left me broke, but it also left me with the freedom to go and do what I want to do once I’m not poor. Since I put more thought into going to Japan, I know what I need to do to go, and I don’t see a reason why I shouldn’t go.

So what else?

I’d like to think I’ll eventually meet someone while I’m in Japan, and maybe I’ll give in and have children, thereby helping out their birth rate and keep it from declining further.

If I’m in Japan before the Olympics, maybe I can get into hospitality and be of some use when the place is mobbed by tourists who speak more English than Japanese. Otherwise, I could always just assist in teaching the language.

My interest in Japan isn’t anime and manga. I might go to a concert, if time and finances allow. I might do some video gaming-related things. Or I might decide to be boring and check out as many temples and shrines as I can. If I lose interest in Japan, I could go elsewhere.

I’ll have to go over on a student visa and go to a language school, then work part time to make a living. I can’t get on a work visa because I don’t have the right credentials, and it would be cheaper to get my bachelors degree in Japan. But it is possible for me to go to Japan, I just need to get my finances in order before I can go.

Tomorrow, I think I’m going to make a PowerPoint presentation of this entry, then save it onto my phone so I can make the argument at a moment’s notice. Basically, the Japanese stuff makes me happy, and so I’d like to go to Japan and live there for a while. I know what I need to do to get there, and unless you’ve travelled abroad, you can’t say that I don’t know what I’m doing. But there are things I can’t plan for just yet, because airline tickets change prices, tuition costs increase, rent goes up, so those things will have to wait until I’m at a point where I have to consider such things.

This is what I want. This makes me happy.

I’ve spent enough time trying to make others happy. Now I want to do something for myself.

J-Vlogger Spotlight – CharlesTALK

Okay, I’ve talked about Victor (Gimmeabreakman, Gimmeaflakeman) twice now. He’s not the only thing I watch on YouTube, either.

I started thinking about it, and I’ve only started watching certain YouTube channels because YouTube recommended them to me. If there was one thing I really wanted, it would be a list of people living in Japan, who do videos of Japan or their life in Japan. But then, would I watch them all because Japan? What should I watch for entertainment and what should I watch if I want to learn about society and culture?

So you know what? I’m going to try and review the YouTube channels I watch, or at least the Japanese ones. Starting with… Charles!

If you’re ever on my Instagram, you’ll see it’s nearly devoid of selfies. I have more pictures of Japanese food, especially whatever I’ve attempted to cook, than I have of pictures of myself. Every so often, someone subscribes to me who I don’t know. Usually it’s an actor who seems to be struggling in Hollywood, and their likes and subscriptions are their way of getting me to notice them and their work. And hey, if I watch the show they’re in, it’ll remain on the air and they’ll still have a job, and it all works out. But I don’t do the whole “influencer” thing, so I don’t follow back unless they seem interesting.

So one day I had someone follow me who has a YouTube channel, and his Instagram screen name is Charusharu. I looked over the pics in the Instagram, and I was like, “…okay.” So I followed him back and subscribed to his YouTube channel. Sometime after that, he released a video thanking his first 100 subscribers, and I was in disbelief. I never checked his subscriber count, or how long his channel had been around, and I was one of his first one hundred subscribers.

So what’s he like?

If anime and video games are things that interest you about Japan, then you’ll like Charles. His Instagram has a lot of Nintendo-related pictures, such as Pokemon, Legend Of Zelda and some Mario. Some of his pictures and videos reference various anime titles, between classics like Dragonball Z and Sailor Moon, and more recent titles such as Spice And Wolf. I think I post more food than he does, but he’s actually posting from Japan so he gets to post more authentic foods and things that can’t or just aren’t imported over here.

His channel CharlesTALK has the majority of his videos, but he also has a second YouTube channel, Charusharu. On the main channel, he doesn’t have too many videos yet, so if you start watching him now, you won’t be overwhelmed with where to begin or how many hours of your life you’re going to lose just trying to catch up. Make sure that captions are turned on, because he often speaks Japanese in his videos. Sometimes he switches to English, but not always.

If you want to see what he’s like before you check out his other videos, I recommend starting with his two videos about the ten things he loves about Japan. On one hand, it gets into his interests, but at the same time he’s talking about some of the best things that are either in Japan or that came out of Japan. No, it’s not all video games, anime, and Pokemon! He talks about the bullet trains, the vending machines, school culture, and…. well, I won’t spoil it, but his list might make you interested in visiting Japan if you weren’t already interested.

His alternate channel only has three videos so far. Of those, I recommend the video showing the Japanese cosplayers at Nipponbashi, which is related to a video on his main channel where he interviewed some of the cosplayers.

I do recommend subscribing to his YouTube channels, and also following him on Instagram. I won’t say he’s good at interacting with his fans, but I will say he does actively give “likes” to Instagram posts and will also read and leave comments. “Interacting with his fans” sounds like I’m putting him up on a pedestal, and while this entire entry is already doing just that, I don’t really feel like there’s much distance between Charles and those who watch him. Maybe it’s just me, but he doesn’t seem like a celebrity, he just seems like a nice guy who shares some of my interests (and possibly your interests as well). When I start to discuss other YouTube channels that talk about life in Japan, I’ll point out how it became more of a business venture instead of just posting videos for fun, and you’ll understand why I’m highlighting Charles now.

I suppose it would help if I added a few links.

He also has a Twitter account… so do I, but I don’t use my Twitter unless it’s absolutely necessary. Also, I don’t like being limited to 120 characters, as you can tell.

Go forth and enjoy his videos!

Meanwhile, before I get to some of the other YouTube channels I watch, I’d like to know if you already watch some Japanese YouTube channels or read any Japan-based blogs. I know I have a follower on here who IS a Japan-related blog, maybe I have more than one. Regardless, leave me a comment and tell me what vlogs and blogs I should look at next!

Kore Wa Pen Desu – How My Scatterbrain Learns Japanese

Mornings around here are hit or miss. Either everyone is reasonably quiet, or I’m just in a very deep sleep when they’re getting ready to leave for school and work, because some mornings I don’t wake up until 9 am or so. Other mornings, it’s either a manic 6-year-old with no volume control regardless of how many times you tell him to be quiet, or it’s a banshee in her mid-thirtees complaining about what does and doesn’t get done properly around here. This morning was a combination of both noisy individuals, but it was fine because I had to wake up at a reasonable hour since a guest was stopping by around 9 am.

With all of this time on my hands, what was I to do? Supposedly, early daytime hours are better for learning things. I’ve only learned to either obey the alarm clock or go back to sleep for another hour. As long as I was awake, I pulled out Memrise and Mindsnacks.

I had the word kore (これ, this) drilled into my head by Memrise. It reminded me that the first phrase Japanese-speakers tend to learn when they’re learning English is “this is a pen.” So, I decided to teach myself how to say “this is a pen” in Japanese.

Google Translate converted the English into これわペンです.

I, however, don’t understand why it can’t be written as これわぺんです. So when I typed that into Google Translate and made it spit the English back at me, it said “this is very confusing.” You’re absolutely correct, Google! It IS very confusing! The hiragana is phonetically correct, so why can’t it still say, “this is a pen?” But I’m here to learn, not to teach, so I’ll have to do some research on that and talk about it later.

The new hiragana I did learn, I could write about it here, but typing the hiragana isn’t going to help me learn the hiragana. The computer already knows the symbol, I just have to type the letters for the sound it makes.

Speaking of, I’m going to get thrown by め and ぬ. One is me (pronounced may) and the other is nu (pronounced new). So it’s not just a matter of looking at the one and thinking, “it looks like no but has a little u-like marking, so it must be nu.” NO! I have to look for the little curlicue on the bottom right of the character in order to tell them apart.

I tried doing the N5 sample questions for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, just to see if I had advanced at all since the last time I tried looking at the questions. I still have much to learn, because even though I know more of the hiragana characters, I don’t feel as if I have all of the vocabulary learned and therefore there’s a disconnect.

And I don’t remember what word I was trying to commit to memory, but I was trying to put a word into context by putting it in a sentence so I’d remember it. Unfortunately, I noticed I was using Spanish articles. I learned some Spanish in high school, and I guess my mind only wants to have one secondary language. If it happens again, I’ll have to write down the sentence I was trying to make, because I had some wires crossing somewhere and I couldn’t help but shake my head.

Of the hiragana I do have memorized, I have ka (か) down pat. I associate it with my most recent Dungeons & Dragons character Kha’knacca, a tiefling warlock who acquired Hyde (yes, Hyde from L’arc en Ciel) as a sort of pet bard. Well, I’m far enough into Memrise that ka is now its own vocabulary term, and it translates to “mosquito.” Considering how many times people wanted to swat Kha’knacca, I guess か is rather fitting.

I’m watching more Kyosuke Himuro music videos tonight. I tried pulling myself away for a day or two, as my mood had changed a bit, but I’m still mesmerized despite watching the same music videos day in and day out. Also, I want to gaze into his eyes more, because they look like pools of ink from what I can see in the videos. I’m so used to seeing people with different colored irises, to the point where solid black irises are mysterious to me. That has nothing to do with learning Japanese, however, people have added the lyrics to his songs at the bottom of some of the videos. Knowing more hiragana helps a bit, because I can follow along with the lyrics even though I still don’t know kanji. One day, I’ll be able to do Himuro’s songs at karaoke without needing to look up the romaji lyrics, but that’s going to take some practice.

A Vamps song just came on. Hyde, you’re not helping my Japanese education by singing in English! You get a pass for putting dragons and a moon in the video for Replay. You did, however, inspire me to look up some of the first Japanese words I ever committed to memory, so you did teach me some Japanese. I’ll save that post for another day, or maybe I’ll turn a song into a vocabulary list.

For now, it’s late and I must be off to bed. Not that I have anything to do tomorrow, since my interview was cancelled. But there’s more Japanese to learn, and more self-awareness questions to answer. Tomorrow is just another day to do it all.

Interview In Pajamas

I’ve become exceedingly lazy lately. If I can’t apply for a job by doing a quick application on a job board, or if I can’t populate all of the fields by linking my LinkedIn account, I hesitate to fill out the application because it will usually take an hour to complete. I have to constantly refer to my Facebook account to verify when I worked at certain places, and then I have to tweak my résumé to customize it towards whatever company or position I’m applying for. When you’re trying to get your application out to a lot of places in the hopes that at least one company wants to offer you an interview, that means a lot of time is spent just trying to craft the perfect application.

So I thought it was pretty awesome when I only had to submit my résumé for this one job I was applying for recently.

I received an e-mail later that day, or the next day, in response. It said there was a questionnaire that I had to complete. Awesome! Questionnaires usually mean they’re interested in knowing more about you. I spent maybe a half hour or so completing the questionnaire, all of those questions that ask how much you agree or disagree with a statement so as to give them some idea of what kind of employee you would be. At the end, I got a message saying I had passed! That was good news to me, because it would mean an interview was coming up.

I went back to the candidate portal to see if there was anything else I needed to do. Yes, I needed to complete an application. I swear, it felt like I spent at least two hours filling out this application. Not only did the application ask for the usual stuff like work experience and references, but it also asked for things like traffic violations in detail. The only one that I can account for right now is my speeding ticket from two years ago, not long after I got my New Jersey license plates, when I looked like someone who would definitely pay the  New York fines by mail. The joke was on them when I walked into traffic court, because I was still in the process of moving out of my New York home and wasn’t as much of an out-of-towner as they believed. I still paid the fines, because the district attorney wasn’t there and I couldn’t deal with the hassle of going back there again when I had more important things to deal with. But anyway, that was one thing I had to account for in the application.

The section for work history was fun, and by “fun” I mean it was quite useful. I could add as many entries as I needed to, because some of the entries could be used to mark periods of unemployment and to explain the reasons why. It also asked for references to verify why you were unemployed during that time, but for the earlier entries I didn’t name anyone. The only one who could really validate that I was unemployed was my own Mom who I was still living with at the time. Unfortunately we didn’t bury her with her cell phone, since she’d go through her data allowance because the cemetery doesn’t have wifi and she’d be playing Words With Friends all the time. So the company I applied for will just have to take my word for it when I tell them about my periods of unemployment.

After the long, exhausting process of filling out that very detailed application, I sat back and waited. And by waited, I mean I perused YouTube for the usual videos, or I just went about life as normal.

This morning, I got an e-mail about an interview! I was excited! I was wondering when they were going to schedule the interview, or what I would wear. I opened the e-mail, only to read that it was a digital interview. I was confused for a moment. A digital interview? I read the guide that was provided, and found that I would need a webcam and microphone. Oh great, I had to record myself. On the bright side, it means I don’t have to drive anywhere, which is a decent trade-off.

Not to mention, I can do the interview in pajamas, which I did.

I know what you’re thinking. “You had to record yourself, on WEBCAM, and you dressed in pajamas?!” My bottom half was still wearing my pajama pants which I had been wearing all day. My top half was in a shirt that was being borrowed from my friend who didn’t like the pink shirt I had chosen. I won’t admit it, but the shirt she loaned me was a better color on me than the pink shirt. She fixed my hair so it looked like I put some effort into it.

I needed a distraction-free environment. The only way I could do that was in the evening when the kids were in bed, since one of the young ones is suspended for a few days. But that also meant herding cats, like literally herding cats, because the kittens would have been doing parkour off the furniture at best and demanding to be cuddled in my arms at worst. Perhaps a kitten would improve my odds of getting the job, but only if the job was for a pet store or a veterinarian. I also wanted to make sure that my background wasn’t too distracting, so I managed to find a boring wall in the dining room with few decorations.

I started up my computer, which I had to move from the living room, then opened up the webpage for the interview. While I was doing that, I went in to my computer settings and worked with my sound input settings until I had everything in good shape. And then I started the interview.

It felt like any interview I’ve had. I had a limited amount of time to figure out a response to the questions being asked, and then I had to figure out which words in the English language to string together to form the perfect statement that also matched the jumble of thoughts inside my head. I feel like I tripped over my words a few times, coming off as if I’m not as well-spoken as some. I feel like I gave decent responses, assuming I’m not up against someone who rescued orphans from a burning building, at which point my responses are basically saying that I went to work and came home at the end of the day.

Maybe ten or fifteen minutes later, I was done with the interview. That meant putting things back where they belonged, making myself less pretty, and kicking myself because my confidence dropped out after the interview was done.

It was a nice alternative to sitting in front of people face-to-face, and I liked the convenience that also came along with doing the interview whenever I could. The only issue I really had was that I’m not completely comfortable sitting in front of the camera while recording myself. Sure, I can record myself without too much of an issue, but I’m always looking at my image on the screen to make sure I don’t look too weird. I did have the option of turning off the video feed so I didn’t have to watch myself, but if I did that, I would wonder if I looked decent. Overall, I do think more companies should offer digital interviews, even if it’s just used as an option for some who might be too busy to make the time during normal work hours.

But now I wait and hope for the best. Okay, I really hope I get this job, because it ties in loosely with me learning Japanese, and I can see how I might need to speak the language if only in rare moments. Beyond that, the job can help me get to Japan in two different ways, the first and obvious way being the income I’ll receive. I just have to be patient, though. If this is a good thing, it will come in time.

I Think I’m Learning Japanese

I barely know the difference between ki and sa. I know the hiragana for ki, but I can’t seem to recall the one without the extra line is sa.

The easy one for me to remember is no, because it looks like an ampersand.

I can sort of recall a and i, and shi.

Somehow, all of these characters make words with particular sounds.

If you don’t know Japanese, you can stare at a word such as いただきます and hear silence in your head. That’s my problem. Yet it’s amazing to think that I normally stare at lines and squiggles and form sounds in my mind. At some point in my early development, my parents took me aside and said, “okay, when you see this symbol, it makes this sound.” And if you think about it, that’s also what the Japanese parents have done. We are conditioned to accept that a few lines make certain sounds and words.

I’ve heard it said that Japanese is easier than English. There’s a lot of truth to that, because after you read this, you can say you read this, and if you picked up on the change to the past tense then you’re already aware that English letters can change their sounds depending on how they’re used. In Japanese, a will always be pronounced like in spa, i will always be pronounced like ski, and every other character will always be pronounced one way. So yes, that does make things easy.

However, instead of 26 letters that can be rearranged to form different sounds, there are 48 different characters in hiragana alone. Okay, that sounds like more work. And yet, if you were to write down all of the different letter arrangements for English, you would actually end up with more combinations, leading to different sounds as well. There’s all of these confusing rules about “i before e, except after c” which confuses anyone who’s weird and feisty.

But English is just English. There are just the 26 letters that can be formed and arranged and what not. Japanese consists of three writing sets which are hiragana, katakana, and kanji. Hiragana and katakana are your phonetic characters, both sets are few in number but can show up everywhere. Katakana is usually used for foreign words, like if you look up Final Fantasy in Wikipedia, you’ll see the katakana that’s used to basically pronounce the words using Japanese syllables. Kanji is serious business. There’s over 6,000 characters, but if you know one character, you know a whole word. If you’re handwriting and you have too few or too many brushstrokes, your one word might become a completely different word. Sentences and phrases combine at least kanji and hiragana together, though katakana is still important.

Oh, and if you thought homophones were insane in English, just wait until you learn Japanese! In English, sure, you have their, there and they’re. Those words aren’t far from each other, because they’re taking their things and putting them there. Maybe as a native English speaker, that makes perfect sense to me and I can’t possibly confuse the three words. So far in learning Japanese, I’ve come across niji in a Mindsnacks lesson, and niji as a song title. One means rainbow, and the other means 2 o’clock. The only time you could have those in the same sentence is to say there was a rainbow at 2 o’clock.

It’s a quarter to 2 in the morning, and Niji just started playing in iTunes. Please buy Heart, it’s an excellent L’arc en Ciel album. Meanwhile, my computer is scaring me because it did that. I might need to make my computer less intelligent before it becomes sentient.

Anyway, I feel like no matter what I learn, no matter what seems to be committed to memory, I don’t actually feel like I’m learning anything.

I don’t know how to form sentences.

I barely know any phrases, except for one-word phrases like greetings and such.

I know a few words. I don’t know enough to know the entire context of a sentence without having to look up other words in a sentence. And oddly enough, the words I’m most familiar with are probably the words I’ve looked up on the side.

My goal is to learn Japanese. My plan is to take formal lessons. My dream plan is to do so in Japan, where I can practice what I learn because of immersion. But until then, I have phone apps, a Nintendo DS game, and my computer if I want to use Anki more often than not.

I’d like to walk into a beginner’s lesson, and before class begins I’d like to introduce myself to the teacher in Japanese and basically say I want to be challenged a bit. I should probably know my shit or hold my tongue, because being cocky might cause my grades to be based on higher level work instead of what the rest of the class is handing in.

However, if I don’t have that confidence, perhaps I could introduce myself to the teacher and say something like, “I’ve been trying to teach myself, but I’ve been having issues with remembering the difference between these characters. I’m sure we won’t be up to that point in the lesson, but I’d like to work on it so I don’t fall behind in class.”

If I can at least pass the N5, which is the lowest category for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, then I’ll be happy. I’ll certainly try for the other exams, N4 all the way to N1, but the N5 will be evidence to me that something is getting through.

So with that, join me as I try to hear random brushstrokes. Yeah, it feels like that.

No offense to native Japanese speakers, because you probably had the same reaction to reading English words when you first learned them, so I think we can agree upon something, that English is hard.