Friday, October 12, 2012

That Japanese Stuff

In the process of focusing my efforts, I'm running into things that are maybes - things that could arguably help my main goals, but aren't indispensable. The biggest of these by current time and effort is my push to learn Japanese. I've been working on it for close to a year now, at varying levels of commitment, and am at the verge between beginning and intermediate student by most measures.

Now, learning Japanese is a lot of fun, but actually learning a language in some useable form takes daily commitment, and it's link to my three main purposes is not so clear. It doesn't particularly help me be a better wife or mother (or at least any more than any other satisfying intellectual pursuit would). It helps me as a writer only in as much as learning more about how languages work in general can make me more aware of how I use my English.

The karate front is where the closest connection of Japanese to my purposes is (duh, right?). It's perfectly possible to be a serious, committed karate student without ever learning more Japanese than required by the dojo. However, ours is an Okinawan art, our Osensei speaks Japanese natively and English only poorly, and knowing what the words of Japanese used to describe our art actually mean can definitely affect how you see them. Just for one example "uke" is generally translated as "block", but comes much closer in meaning to "reception". Last, and most direct, I'm hoping to make a training trip to study with Master Shimabuku in 2014. If I can understand him directly, if I'm not tied at the hip to a translator, if I can carry on my own conversation and ask my own questions, I suspect I will get a lot more out of the trip. Not to mention, I suspect strongly that learning Japanese will help me go on the trip in the first place, as the Sensei organizing the trip has many, many applicants, and will probably be weeding them out on various criteria.

So I think for now, the Japanese will stay. I will be paying close attention to how much time I spend on it, though. The language podcasts in the car can stay - not otherwise used time right now. My writing practice is mostly on the bus while chaperoning the marching band right now (other than 20 minutes each night on specific kanji). As a major plus, if I can get my reading to a middling fluent level, I can practice the Japanese by reading things relevant to either writing (there are a lot of phenomenal Japanese writers) or karate, which will combine.

Thoughts? Am I deluding myself because I like learning Japanese and don't want to give it up? Or is this a reasonable decision vis-a-vis my focusing efforts?

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