The next post was supposed to be on Saturday and Sunday about Nara and a Homestay experience… I haven’t even finished translating my previous blog post… However, I just have something else I need to blog about real quick.
I am sure everyone and anyone going through a study abroad experience (or just in general, life) has times that they break down. Get frustrated with themselves. Or feel like giving up. If there is a person out there that has never had a moment like that when they feel weak, or defeated… they are just absolutely amazing.
Honestly, most of the time I am fine with not being able to speak in Japanese. I am fine with not being able to understand everything. I am fine with not getting what I ordered due to miscommunication. I am fine… Most of the time.
Today though was that day. The day where I felt defeated. Starting from my first class of the day, which was Korean class. We were just going over counting/numbers which I know in Korean, there were only four of us in the class today, so it should be easy… I just say the fourth number, right? Well… I messed up and said the wrong number–Korean has two ways of counting. No big deal simple mistake, I can correct it write? However, the teacher started saying something to me in Japanese and I got more and more confused, so I try to look where she is pointing on the page, but I just could not grasp the fact that she was telling me to just read off of the sheet. Finally though, she gets through to me… I say the right number. Next though she has us switch to the other type of numbers to count… Good lord, I have no idea what she said, but I tried to follow what everyone else was doing! I got it! We were counting by twos, with the odd numbers. Easy! Until it was 20, 30, etc. She changed up the rules on me and I was lost. Then, at the end of class she starts talking about the homework assignments. I am trying to pay attention to the numbers that she is saying, and what kind of assignments they are, but it was so difficult to do even that.
Then, later today I had a vocabulary test… Which I did not study as much as I should have for. Over the weekend I was spending time with friends, so I did not start studying until Monday. Language learners out there, do not follow my example! For long term understanding of vocabulary, cramming is not beneficial at all. Even if you remember it for the test, being able to apply it to your life is completely different if you study cram style. However, that was my only option Monday night. I was able to recognize all the words going Japanese -> English, but once I had to produce the Japanese word on my own, I had a pile of words that I could not remember. Of course, on our quiz there were 3 of those words on there. Now, I do not believe tests are accurate measurements of a person’s language ability, nor do I think they are accurate measures of ones intelligence or understanding of a subject. However, being a very competitive person, even missing one question is not enough. And I missed three…
Other things naturally happened throughout the day where there were communication failures. However, I was talking to one of my Japanese friends who I speak mostly in Japanese to. We’ve been talking since the beginning of October, so only about a month, but it has been one of the reasons I do not mind speaking as much anymore and one of the reasons I feel more motivated to learn more Japanese. Now he also speaks English, fairly well, but I am trying to avoid speaking to him in English unless there is something I need to convey that I cannot in Japanese. Our conversations are relatively basic, but I enjoy talking with him.
Now, yesterday was Monday…Monday is my favorite day of the week. I can play soccer and I have a class about British History, which interests me. At the beginning of the day, I was responding to his messages fairly fast, but then I had class, and then needed to eat, then I fell asleep… Just in general I was a little bit busy, but also did not know how to respond to his questions other than with simple one word answers… So, today he mentioned that he felt hurt that I did not respond much to his messages (beyond just today)– which is true they were very short responses. He ended up talking a lot about how he was feeling and was very nice about it, but obviously my lack of response hurt… In fact I never really am the one asking questions because that is hard for me to do, in either language. I understood most of what was said. However, then it came to me responding… I could not express my feelings accurately. I could not tell if he understood what I meant… But I tried. I felt frustrated that I wasn’t able to communicate my thoughts. While still talking, on the phone, I started to cry…Which made me more frustrated… I do not think he noticed I was crying, but still…
I rarely cry… But I think everything just got to me. I was frustrated with my lack of Japanese ability, with just in general who I am as a person… I felt exhausted and defeated. It was more than just feeling uncomfortable, which most of the time I laugh off (I think it is important to be able to laugh at yourself). Luckily, we were able to come to an understanding and work out the issues at hand (I don’t feel comfortable giving more details on the blog, but in general what I said before is accurate). I realized, that the people that will end up being my friends are going to be the ones that are patient, who recognize the fact that mistakes will be made, frequently, and who help me overcome them. Thankfully the person I am talking with is like that.
I just wanted to share this story on here to let people see the side of things you may experience while in Japan, or studying anywhere else. Not only is there a language barrier to deal with, but there are cultural differences to take into consideration when making friends and forming relationships.
I really enjoy my time in Japan, and now only feel more motivated to learn. However, I do not think I realized just how frustrated and how defeated I could become. Now, I recognize this and am going to continue studying hard~!