Thursday, December 10, 2009

Nihongo, Nihongo, they drink it in the Congo

(Nihongo is Japanese for 'Japanese'.)

Two posts in one day? What do I think this is, Twitter?

You see, my morale is running very high right now, and I wanted to share my good cheer with the folks back home. Could I be pushing through to the fabled Stage 3 already? Also, I would like to apologise preemptively if this post takes on a slightly hubristic tone.

I just had my last Japanese class before the lengthy winter break. Part of me is stoked that I won't have any Thursday night linguistic stress for two and a half months, but I'm also a little rueful that I will now have to either motivate myself to study or suffer some depressing Japanese atrophy, or Japatrophy. Anyway, because it was the end of the course, they sprung a grammar test on us. This was totally unexpected; normally the class is a fairly casual, speech-oriented affair, but here we were sitting at separate desks in exam conditions. Not knowing it was coming, I hadn't prepared. Thankfully however, I didn't go drinking with Marie last night for once.

I got 88%. Top of the class, bitches! Considering that everyone else has lived in Japan for a matter of years compared to my months, I feel particularly proud of this achievement. I would hasten to point out that I still can't actually speak Japanese for toffee; I just can't think fast enough to hold a conversation at this stage. I suspect that a written grammar test really plays to my strengths, as having done more than a little programming and maths in my time, I'm quite good at manipulating symbols according to rules.

During my protracted education, I think I got addicted to acing tests. To most well-adjusted people, the recognition that you were willing to jump through hoops more conscientiously than anyone else in the room would be scant cause for celebration. But to someone as lacking in self-esteem as I was for most of that time, each of those tiny but objective validations of my worth as a person was like a hit of some glorious drug.

It's been a long time since I've had that feeling. Once you get past the masters level, there are no more tests to sit (other than your viva, but that's more a surreal and terrifying initiation ritual than an actual test). I think this test-withdrawal may have been part of the reason for my PhD malaise. Looking back, I suspect I started looking for the positive feedback I craved in the wrong places, most notably in romantic relationships, with predictably disastrous consequences.

So, all of that is a very over-analysed and navel-gazing way of saying that I'm pleased I did well in my Japanese test. As if that wasn't enough, in the class tonight I also literally played Chinese whispers, by which I mean that I played the children's entropy-demonstrating communication game with two actual Chinese people. My life is complete.


  1. Maaaaaan, I've checked back such an embarrassing number of times now and still no updates. What's that all about? Are you spending the holidays in Japan? Do you get any time off from your new job? Have I just not read your blog carefully enough?

  2. Sorry, I'm being being kept pretty busy with yuletide festivities. For instance, being the only Caucasian in a 5km radius, I've been asked to be be Santa Claus for the local kindergartens.

    Yes, I will be staying here over the Xmas/New Year period. I get the week from 28th-1st off; note that the 25th is not a holiday here. I don't have any specific plans, but as the snow is now falling I'm hoping to get some boarding in.