Open Buddha

Open Source Buddhism, Technology, and Geekery
Bay Area, California

Learning Japanese

As part of my ongoing Academic work, I need to know Japanese. This is especially true if I am accepted into the doctoral program at the Graduate Theological Union. Since there is a while until this program starts, I’ve been working on self-study of Japanese. It is definitely slow going to self-study a language and I’m going to have to take some classes during this next year to accompany it. The time involved in learning a language is a bit daunting. It takes a regular commitment to it and then you have to find a way to use it.

I’ve never had great fortune with languages but I’ve never received the impression that I’m overly challenged by them (it isn’t like a deficiency in ability as much as time and motivation). Like almost all Americans, I have had little need to learn a language other than English and limited opportunity to use one if I did learn another language. While many languages are spoken because of the immigrant nature of the American population, as someone who is not a member of a recent immigrant community, the only languages that I hear day-to-day are English and Spanish.

For the self-study of Japanese, I’ve been using some books but also trying to find podcasts and other audio resources (like JapanesePod101) to help. Of course, I have a fine selection of Japanese language films. I’m sure that there are resources out there that are unknown to me.

I know that some of my friends who read this (here or in the places where I mirror my blog) have studied Japanese, both formally and through self-study. Others have done the same with additional languages, I am sure. I’d love to hear about strategies or resources that have worked well for people, especially for Asian languages.

R and I do have a good friend with a Japanese degree who lives locally and I have thought about getting him to tutor me once a week. I’m sure it would make a big difference and it is the kind of thing that I’m happy to pay someone to do. I’m not convinced that most of the classes available to me would actually be more effective than that.

My eventual need, more than conversational Japanese, is the ability to read Japanese texts, specifically ritual texts within Tendai and Shingon Buddhism. These will be in modern Japanese, not the Sino-rific Classical, luckily. Given the variety of writing methods and traditions in Japan, this is a pretty fair challenge in and of itself. The ability to understand and speak is pretty much a bonus on top of my reading requirements.