Saturday, June 12, 2010

White Out?

When I was 11 or 12 I decided I wanted to go to Japanese school and learn Japanese. 40 plus years ago, there was a small Saturday morning Japanese school where first generation Japanese immigrants enrolled their Japanese-American children. I knew one girl who went to this Japanese school and I thought it sounded most exotic. Learning to write intricate scribbles, participating in the makeshift Japanese festivals, eating unusual foods with chopsticks. On the walls of the building were photos of kimono-clad Japanese girls with American names like Shirley Matsumoto or Helen Fujitani and they boasted of being the Japanese-American representatives in local beauty pageants. I begged my mother to let me go to Japanese school!

My mother couldn't figure out what the attraction was. She knew next to nothing about Japan, couldn't speak Japanese, couldn't manage chopsticks. As far as she knew, there was no reason for me to take an interest in Japan. What on earth was I going to do with my knowledge even if I DID learn to write a few hieroglyphics? But she relented and I was enrolled in Japanese school.

Japanese school turned out to be a lot less fun than I thought it was going to be. I was put in the kindergarten class and set to work practicing the most rudimentary Japanese symbols in endless boxes of calligraphy drill books. The little kids laughed at how lopsided my writing was and given the fact that I didn't know the vocabulary to match the symbols my interest waned quickly. I quit Japanese school after a couple months.

I tried to master the Japanese language again in college and took four years of Japanese language. Again the notebooks and scribbling but I never got much better. The professor assigned a daily journal but I became discouraged when I'd show my journal to my Japanese room mate and she'd ask

"And WHAT were you trying to write?"

So I concentrated on Japanese conversation with only satisfactory results. I still couldn't speak Japanese when I came to Japan.

Not being able to write Japanese has been a trial. There was the time when Tetsu was hospitalized but I couldn't fill out forms. There were the years when I'd have to ask the kids to read me school papers and when a reply was needed to write a sample for me to copy.

I tried. I swore I'd study right along with Takumi when he went to 1st grade. I'd master this language yet! ...I was left by the wayside. That's okay. I'll have more time when Leiya goes to 1st grade. Nope. ...Leiya, will you write this for me?

When teaching adult English students I'd tell them that it was important to keep an English journal. What was needed was perseverance and consistency. But I rarely applied these principals to my own Japanese lacking.

BUT!!! As of April I have been required to keep a daily crosswalk guard log. I am FORCED to write Japanese. DAILY!!! I can just hear the kindergarten children laughing at me again. The characters are lopsided and crooked. The grammar may be wrong (if I started worrying about that I'd get all hung up again)and the Japanese is too informal.

Right now my best friend is this little correction tape gadget. It sits on the desk right along with my logging sheets and pen. Cleaner than the White Out brush type, I can press a bit of this tape over my goofs and go on writing. In the two and a half months that I have been logging I have yet to make it a day without using this gizmo so my Japanese still isn't very good.

At least I'm persevering!

No comments: