14 May 2004
Japanese was my major in college, but I’ve barely used it in these three years (almost four) that I’ve been in China. A testament to the worthlessness of a language degree? Or of any degree? Or have I just chosen a “career path” which renders my major particularly ineffectual?
I remember in my final year at UF I won an award for outstanding Japanese major of the year (I beat out the three other people in my class), and I was presented with a copy of the Koujien (広辞苑), Japan’s authoritative Japanese-Japanese dictionary. It’s quite a beast. Anyway, at that mini ceremony, my Japanese professor said to me, “I hear you’re going to China. I hope we don’t lose you. You wouldn’t be the first one to switch over to Chinese.”
Quite some time ago I resigned myself to the fact that Japanese had, indeed, lost me. Nevertheless, I’m finding that the Japanese I learned is staying in my brain, albeit rather dormant. Every time I go back to Japan, I can be speaking fairly fluently (like I used to) after three days of immersion. It seems a shame to waste it.
And now, in Shanghai, I find Japanese slowly creeping back into my life.
My next door neighbor in Shanghai is a Japanese girl that works for JAL.
Recently someone at the office needed help deciphering a Japanese address. The Japanese simplifications of the traditional Chinese characters left her very confused, so I had to show her how to write the address. (For the character 豐, the PRC has simplified it as 丰, but the Japanese write it as 豊. For 縣, the PRC uses 县, not the Japanese 県.)
Yesterday at my favorite DVD store I found four complete seasons of Ranma 1/2 on DVD (24 DVDs). I remember getting a kick out of those in college (hey, it’s educational!). I picked them up.
Tomorrow there’s a Japanese teacher coming to the office to do a teaching technique demonstration. I’m going to be here anyway, so I’m going to stick around and watch (and possibly offer my interpretation services).
I’ve already decided that I need to get back into Japanese. I’m going to find a tutor soon. Japanese will be useful in my future, and I’m not going to let it go. Then there’s also my good friends in Japan. If I quit on Japanese, I’m pretty much quitting on my relationships with them too.