ciudad edificios

Our in-house polyglot: on reaching fluency in Japanese!

Posted on October 19, 2018 · Posted in Pura Buena Onda Blog

A few weeks our in-house polyglot started a weekly mini-series on how he has become a 7 language speaker. So far he has shared his journey with becoming fluent in Spanish, Catalan, English, French and Italian. This week, the topic is Japanese!

In case you missed any of those posts, please see below.

Now on to today’s topic:

Bienvenidos a todos al blog de Octavi 🙂

Today the blog is going to be very special, because I’m going to write about my experience with a language that has nothing to do with the other languages I had learned before: Japanese!

How I got interested…

It all started when my mum enrolled in Japanese classes, for fun. She would bring her notes home and show them to me, and I immediately found it extremely interesting. Throughout my whole childhood and youth I watched Japanese animation series on Catalan TV, so I was very fond of Japan and its culture even though I had never been to Japan. That’s why it was so exciting to me to see all those notes and words in Japanese every time my mum came back home.

However, I never really considered the possibility of really learning to speak Japanese. It was entertaining, but not something I was planning to do. Anyways, if you read the blog in which I talked about my experience with French, you might remember that I spent several months in Paris as an exchange student. While I was there, one of the other Catalan students found out that I had an interest in the Japanese language. She said she was acquainted with a young Japanese pianist who was studying in Barcelona, and she told me that he was looking for a language exchange partner. She asked me if I would be interested in teaching him Spanish in exchange for Japanese, and I just said yes.

And so it began…

Once I was back in Barcelona I met this guy, and we decided that we would meet each other once a week. We practiced Japanese for an hour and Spanish for an hour. We didn’t really teach grammar to each other, it was mainly trying to speak. It was super hard for me; I had to ask everything and I forgot most of the words all the time: how do you say ‘church’? Ok… Kyoukai… Got it. Yesterday, I saw a beautiful… sorry, how do you say ‘church’, again? 🙂 It was sooo hard to just put simple sentences together. I had a headache at the end of every time we met. Nevertheless, I kept meeting with him because we got along and I found it fascinating to learn such a different language.

A whole other world…

One day, he said that he was going back to Japan for a month in August. It was 2006 and he was going to visit his family. He offered me to go with him and stay with them! I was so happy! I obviously accepted! (My parents paid for the plane ticket… They are awesome. Thanks dad and mum!). Let me tell you: that trip changed me. It was like being in another planet! I experienced so many sensations and had so much fun… I realized I wanted to commit to learning Japanese and also, I decided that one day in the near future I would live in Japan. While I was there, I tried to practice with my friend’s parents, in shops, on the street… I never used English. It is such an amazing feeling to be able to communicate to people who live in such a different and exciting place (obviously, different and exciting from my point of view, probably not theirs :).

Consistency is key…

Anyway, from the day I meet my friend in 2003, I have been speaking in Japanese for at least one hour every week. I know I will never be perfectly fluent, because Japanese is complicated, but to me the best part right now is not trying to be perfect, it’s just enjoying a conversation in that language with my friend Yasuko who lives in Korea. I meet her in 2010 when I moved to Seoul. Since 2013, she has been helping me. We used to meet in Seoul every other week and talk for two hours, but I realized it was more effective to meet once a week and speak for one hour. Two weeks without practicing was bad, I could tell. It was hard for me to warm up at the beginning of every conversation. Now we speak on the phone, for one hour, mainly on Thursdays. During the week I make sure I read Japanese and watch Japanese TV shows. It’s important to live your life in the language you learn, as many of you probably already know. To me, one hour with Yasuko is essential, but I know that if I do more during the rest of the week, I get the more out of the time we spend speaking on the phone.

Well, that was my experience with Japanese, and I hope you’re already looking forward to next week, because I’ll tell you why and how I learned Korean!

Hasta pronto, chicos y chicas 🙂

Octavi

If you have not had a chance to learn how Octavi became fluent in Catalan, Spanish, English, French & Italian, check out his previous posts:

https://purabuenaonda.com/our-in-house-polyglot-on-reaching-fluency-in-spanish-catalan/

https://purabuenaonda.com/in-house-polyglot-reaching-english-fluency/

https://purabuenaonda.com/polyglot-reaching-fluency-in-french/

Our in-house polyglot on reaching fluency in Italian!