ust in case you thought that living in Japan for five years has made me fluent in Japanese, this post is here to prove you wrong. While Living Abroad in Japan has indeed improved my Japanese ability beyond what I had learned in high school, and in spite of Japanese being the easiest language I have learned so far (yes English included) I have yet to come anywhere near to mastery of it. At best I can hold a casual conversation and buy my groceries. Complicated things like talking to the folks at Immigration is completely beyond my abilities. (Speaking of which, I have enough paperwork piled up from my trips to Immigration to make A Japanese Visa Handbook.)
One of the things that makes Japanese so hard is learning to read again completely from scratch. With each Chinese character having several potential readings and meanings depending on which other character it is paired with, even reading Japanese Names can be impossible if you haven’t memorized you Basic Kanji Book.
If you’re thinking that you don’t need to read, or even speak Japanese to be able to communicate, I have to burst your bubble of optimism. Even a simple look at A History of Japan will show you that social communication that has been evolving in this country for thousands of years is a great deal more different than what we are used to in the west. There are a lot of potential missteps to Making Out in Japanese, but if you think you can hack it, I invite you to give it a try. Take a Womansword for it, though; it’s a lot harder than it looks.