Tuesday, May 30, 2006

I'm Turning Japanese

I've dabbled in many languages in my life, even an effort to teach myself ancient Greek before I started college in the fall of 1976. Not that I can speak anything besides English -- I'm more a dilettante waiting for the day when I can activate my meandering studies in a real-life situation (as in, get a job that requires me to actually understand, say, Portuguese).

Last week I moved farther afield than ever when I started a five-week Japanese Language and Culture class at my company. I don't know why the class is being offered. It has no bearing on my professional responsibilities. However, my linguistic spirit of adventure had me sign up.

The first week's language segment focused on greetings and the simplest one-stroke letters. Over the weekend son Shmoikel relentlessly drilled me so, incredibly, the polysyllabic words began to make sense. The cartoon pictures that serve as memory aides for learning letters -- "Mt. St. Helens is quiet today" for "he" -- work very well, although upcoming lessons show a strange fixation on cartoons with yo-yos.

Overall, I'm happy to be learning in a structured setting, and I'll be returning my Italian and Hebrew language learning sets to the Greenwich Library so I can concentrate on Japanese.

"I'm Turning Japanese," by the way, was a popular song and video by the Vapors in the early 1980s. The lyrics are painfully relevant, although not to my efforts to learn Japanese:

I've got your picture
Of me and you
You wrote "I love you"
I love you too
I sit there staring and there's nothing else to do

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