You may know or not know (and possibly care or not care) that I’m re-taking the Japanese Proficiency test on December 5th. The first time I took it was during my second year in Japan. At that time, I was attending Japanese language school for four hours a day, five days a week and I had a motivation driving me to study akin to being chased by a rabid dog otherwise known as: you no passy test, you no stay in country.
It’s been several years since that and a few months ago I thought I’d take the opportunity to re-take the test this year – mostly because I’m curious as to how my Japanese is after all these years and also because this year they’ve apparently revamped it and made it a bit ‘harder’.
So I was doing some study today and thinking about what has kept me interested in Japanese for all these years. I’m probably in the minority in that I don’t like anime or manga, which seems to be why everyone else is so enamoured with the language these days, and I don’t have a spouse whom I need to communicate with (anymore…lol), so why do I sit here revising archaic grammar structures and memorizing 26 stroke kanji characters?
It’s so damn quirky, that’s why.
Let’s take an example like twitter.
It’s become all the rage in Japanese twittering to include the words:
With nau coming from the English ‘now’, and it’s used to describe what someone is doing or where they are now. Like Shinjuku nau meaning,”I’m in Shinjuku now”. And dan of course, comes from the English ‘done’ to describe what they have done or what is over, as in Twitter akaunto o sakujo dan meaning, “I’ve just finished deleting my twitter account”.
That sort of language use pushes all my nerdy geek buttons just right.
And another thing that gets the nerdy geek in me hot are homonyms – that’s where you have words with the same pronunciation but different spellings & meanings, like right/write. In English we have a few that transcend all accents like, right/write and a few that may or may not be homonyms depending on where you’re from like, dew/do (which aren’t homonyms for me, but probably are for anyone from the US of A).
Japanese has a shit load of homonyms – I shit you not. For some pronunciations there are only two or three different sets of characters, but there are many with 7,8,9 and more combinations:
And in another delightfully sick twist, there is a whole other group of words where the ‘meaning’ can be the same, but the usage differs:
And in a similar vein to the homonym thing, there is the whole issue of levels of language whereby you need to use completely different language to say exactly the same thing, depending on who you are saying it to/about:
(You know, this kind of thing just gives me the biggest hard on.)
And that’s one of the biggest reasons why I think I’ve stayed interested in Japanese for so long – it totally speaks to the
masochist endurance-orientated soul in me. You have to be either a nerdy geeky or totally masochist to get into the deeper areas of it.
Bring on December 5th.