Connecting my Life in New York with Japanese

My name is Kevin, and I work as a computer sales consultant in New York City by day. I run a Japanese & English language exchange Meetup group and obsess over Japanese when I’m not at work. Later this year I plan on applying for both CIR and ALT positions in the JET Program and taking the JLPT N1. And my friends consider me a karaoke master…at least after I’ve had a few drinks. (^.^)

3 More Stories Of Japanese Masters In The Making 3

The beginnings of my road to mastery

My interest in Japanese came about while taking a Japanese Culture/History course during my 2nd year of university. The professor would often spell out Japanese terms and concepts in romaji, and I started wondering what they’d look like in the actual writing system.

During my summer vacation after that semester, I was bored at home and decided to pick up Japanese as a hobby to kill time. One day I went to the nearby library in search of textbooks, and the first one I picked off the shelf happened to be the infamous Genki I! I started teaching myself from zero, and kept delving deeper into my studies throughout the remainder of my school days.

After graduating, I decided to use the money I’d saved from a few part-time jobs to visit Japan–I ended up enrolling at a Japanese language school & home stay program in Fukuoka for three weeks. It was during that time when I experienced true immersion and my Japanese skyrocketed to new heights. I also fell in love with 博多ラーメン.

Learning/Study Methods

I’ve dabbled in a handful of other textbooks aside from Genki, but my most effective learning has come from immersion. Everything from reading manga and anime, watching Japanese TV, language meet-up groups and one-on-one exchange—even telling Siri “6時のアラームをセットしてください” every night before going to bed—whatever I can do in Japanese, I’ll do it. Currently I’ve started reading スラム・ダンク and a book of 353 random facts (雑学), and have been obsessing over Japanese hip-hop music, particularly RIP SLYME.

And of course, JALUP has been an indispensable part of my studies. To Adshap and the entire community: You are all a huge source of inspiration for me and one of the reasons why I’m still pursuing Japanese mastery. My infinite gratitude goes to you.

Where I stand now

I’ve reached level 55 since starting my journey 3 years ago. Hopefully one day I’ll attain the legendary level 99 status…we’ll see, though. :)

Times of ??? (but since resolved)

Friend: からくない?

Me: Wait, why are you asking me if it’s not spicy?

Friend: …?…

Me: …Oh wait, you mean “It’s spicy, isn’t it?”

Friend: そう!

Me: Ah, okay! Actually, I think it’s pretty mild.

Friend: ヤバイ。

The worst times…

My weak point has always been listening comprehension. Oftentimes I understand the words uttered but not what they mean as a whole. This problem has left me helplessly lost in countless conversations with Japanese people, and sometimes I feel like all the extra effort I put into listening practice is a waste. But I love this language too much to give in to frustration, and slowly but surely I’ve been improving at seeing the “big picture” in conversation.

…And then the best times!

When I re-watched 坂道のアポロン and found that I understood way more of the dialogue than I did the first time (and could even manage it without subtitles!)

One time I even got to help a Japanese customer troubleshoot some computer Wi-Fi problems. Thankfully I’ve had my laptop’s language set to Japanese for a while now, so I knew more than enough パソコン lingo to communicate well.

And whenever I re-visit Test Your Japanese Might and find that I’ve leveled up a bit :)

My Three Bits of Advice

– Dedication. Make Japanese your daily habit. As the great Khazumoto once said, “You don’t learn a language, you get used to it.”

– Challenge yourself everyday. Hang out with people better than you at Japanese, work toward using a J-J dictionary, keep your Anki deck updated with new words. You gotta flex your Japanese muscles to make ‘em buff でしょう!

– Love the struggle and embrace failure. I can’t count how many embarrassing or awkward conversations I’ve attempted with my Japanese friends, or how many times I lost myself in abstract vocabulary or grammar forms, but in all of those moments I learned and improved way more compared to doing it perfectly the first time. Persevere through everything and you’ll come out stronger than ever.

How Japanese has changed my life

Where to even begin? I’ve met tons of interesting people and made lifelong friends both in New York and in Japan, discovered my passion, developed a broader perspective of life, developed a distinctly “New Yorker” Japanese inner monologue (most of which is me just thinking “めんどくせー” and “イライライライラ” all the time)—the list goes on! I can say without hesitation that Japanese has been one of the best things about my life, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything else. Except maybe a bowl of the most delicious 博多ラーメン ever made.

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Connecting my Life in New York with Japanese — 3 Comments

  1. This was awesome (again).

    Kevin: I love your advice to keep challenging yourself and embrace failure. Your story about re-watching something is timely, too. I’m re-reading some manga now and am finding so many hilarious moments that I didn’t get the first time around. Next time I’m in New York, I’m definitely going to try to make it to one of your meetups.

  2. Great reads everyone. Thanks for sharing. It is always really cool to hear the experiences of others and also the tips you share.

  3. These stories are very good reads. There is definitely some advice here I’m going to look into implementing into my own studies. Also, it is very encouraging just seeing how other people have succeeded and how they have had their own good and bad moments along the way.

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