Overly Goal Focused Japanese

It’s been a while since I last updated this blog. A lot of stuff has happened, but let’s key in on something I’ve been building up to, and now finished, the JLPT, which stands for Japanese Language Proficiency Test. I took Level 3, right in the middle, and frankly I didn’t do too well…

But being in the test made me realize one thing, one critical mistake a lot of my Japanese study has had up till now.

I’ve treated it almost entirely as a problem solving skill. Not a pleasure skill. Even though my goal has been for so long to do translation work, most of my Japanese use amounts to things like understanding a meeting, working out where to go next in a game, or to answer a question in a test. Very little of my Japanese gets used for anything not so goal focused.

And in the JLPT, I realized that. Why? Because I noticed the way I was reading, from the start, was simply looking for the bits to answer the questions. Which is fine, it’s a test. It’s supposed to be about that. But then I realized that is how all my Japanese is. It’s finding solutions to problems, and not about just enjoying it the way I enjoy English.

Partially, that’s just a skill issue, I problem solve Japanese rather than pleasure Japanese because I reading and conversation can be a struggle, making it harder to enjoy. And when I first learned Japanese while on exchange, I had to just get things done in the language, no time to actually enjoy it.

Recently though 2 things happened, before the JLPT I saw a film, Bakuman. The film itself isn’t important, but what was important is that it was the first film I watched without subtitles I was able to follow, laugh at, and generally enjoy without assistance. It was kind of a rush to be frank. I was unused to being competent.

Post JLPT though, I was given a really charming little manga, Yotsuba&!. It is a manga about a little girl, and sure, it uses very simple Japanese as expected by children and people talking to children, but it’s the first time I’ve something both interesting to read, but also readable in Japanese. I do enjoy reading, and reading manga specifically  and one of the reasons Japanese was so appealing to me was enjoying the stories without the layer of someone else translating.

It’s a tough thing, finding text to read at your level, that is also just actually interesting. But, I am really glad I’ve reached a point where I can transition from “problem solving Japanese” to “enjoying Japanese.” Although truth be told, I’ve probably been at this point a lot longer, and it was just a case of finding something with the right balance. Here is hopefully to reading a lot more manga in Japanese over the coming months.