For many months now, I have been deeply immersed in the study of Japanese. Indeed, I probably spend at minimum of 3 to 4 hours a day actively studying and at least another 3 or 4 hours with Japanese media in the background while I do other tasks.
I have to admit to feeling a little awkward when people ask me what I have been doing lately. I explain that I have been deeply engaged in the study of Japanese. I often get asked the questions, “Why Japanese?” and “What are you going to DO with it?”
Those questions are a bit tricky to answer as at the moment, I am not really sure of THE reason for Japanese, if in fact, THE reason exists. I seem to have been led in this direction, and I have learned from long experience that the Fairies often give us information on a “need to know” basis. Still, they are trustworthy, and it is generally best to follow where they lead.
That being said, there seem to be lots of reasons, and more and more reasons become manifest every day. It occurred to me that some of the reasons are deeply intertwined with the journey that this blog has been documenting.
Language is far more fundamental to our being than many of us realize. Not only is language a means of communication, but it shapes they way we think and look at the world. Many English speakers, especially English speakers in the U.S., never learn another language. Most people take one or two years of another language in high school and/or college, but that is not the same thing as actually learning a language. I took two years of French in high school, but I really do not remember anything from it. In order to truly learn a language, one must really embrace it, and I think that embracing a new language really changes a person on a fundamental soul level.
I have noticed many changes in myself over the past several months. It is hard to really describe the changes, but I think that overall, Japanese has softened me. I have noticed that I feel gentler and more quiet inside. While I my Japanese is not yet at the level that I can think in Japanese, or at least not for very long, it has stilled my inner monologue considerably. Even in English, I have noticed that my voice has become softer, and I feel less pressured in social situations. I have also felt safer when out and about, as if Japanese has formed a protective shield around me.
On this blog, I have written many articles about the Image Sphere. As part of my studies, I have been consuming a great deal of media in Japanese. As the reader may know, I had already been watching Anime with English subtitles, but watching them in Japanese (even at my level of Japanese) is a much different experience. Even in English, the shows were gentler and cleaner than anything I have seen in Western media, particularly recent Western media. Yet, watching them in Japanese makes even the English translations seem course. (Cure Dolly wrote an article about the difficulty of translation between Japanese and English that can be found here).
Are any of these things THE reason for studying Japanese? I do not know. Yet, I do think that they are very good reasons. What I am going to DO with Japanese? I do not know that either. What am I doing with Japanese now? I am learning and letting my soul be reshaped by this language.