I Pep Talked Myself

I downloaded the Evernote program for my computer with the intention of using it for my studies. I’ll admit I haven’t touched it in months – I’m too lazy/busy to use it, at least right now. Maybe one day I’ll go back and do what I originally intended to do.

Anyway, I wrote a letter to myself to evaluate myself in a number of things, including why I wanted to learn Japanese. And for you, the Internet, I am posting it for you all to read.


Good day, evening, or whatever time it is myself! I am obviously you, Kelly Mulry, and I am here to write a little introduction/pep-talking/whatever else I want to call this. I downloaded Evernote after I saw the Tofugu suggestion and thought HEY. Why not use it? It seems great and a wonderful way to organize my Japanese studies.

I know you have doubted yourself quite a few times, asking yourself why are you learning Japanese in the first place. You once had a reason that sounded good to you, but seemed to be broken down by other language learners that it wasn’t a good reason and your interest in Japan has seemed to disappear slowly over the years.

So ask yourself, Kelly. Why did you originally want to learn Japanese in the first place? What made you cling onto the idea of learning Japanese for so long, even when your interest in Japan dwindled down to almost nothing? How did you feel when you first learned hiragana and katakana? How did you feel when you were finally studying Japanese after about five years of not being able to? How did you feel when you were in Japan? Why did you feel that way? How does seeing Japanese usually make you feel? How do you feel when you can read sentences and paragraphs? Why are you continuing to study Japanese? What are your goals? Kelly, tell me! Seriously, tell me.

No, wait, myself, I’ll answer these questions right now on August 31st, 2010 at 12:23 AM in the morning. It’s a Tuesday. I have an interview at Starbucks later today and I have no clue how I’m going to sleep tonight, but that’s alright!

Why did I originally want to learn Japanese? Anime and manga. Since anime & manga were associated with Japan, I wanted to learn the language. Anime and manga drew me in, making me want to learn the language it originally came from. I loved looking at Japanese since it looked more like drawings than writing. I didn’t really have a specific reason, only that I wanted to learn Japanese.

What made me cling on for so long, even now? Determination. I have the determination to learn it. I spent sixth grade to eleventh grade hearing peers around me doubting that I could ever learn Japanese. They’re stupid. I still come across stupid people. I talk about learning Japanese all the time, but do you know what? I never really put in the effort to learn it. Well, no. Wait. Let me rephrase that. I put in bite sized efforts into learning Japanese. First thing I got down were random words every major anime/manga fan probably knew like  “baka” (idiot), “mizu” (water), etc., then I got down numbers 1-99, and the months all within the same time frame. Then there was a long break and confusion, because honestly, I really didn’t have a structure to learning Japanese.

I wanted to learn grammar. I wanted to learn kana. I wanted to learn kanji. I wanted to learn vocabulary. There were so many things I wanted to learn, but I didn’t know where to start or how to start. I could have put in more effort to find where to start, but I never did. I was too lazy, between school and the Internet.

April 2008 probably had the most effort I put in for Japanese before this year. April 2008 was when I learned how to read kana (hiragana and katakana) within a few hours.

So, back about people being stupid, since I cut myself off, is that people are stupid because they build assumptions about me based off what I’m talking about. I say I’m planning or trying to learn Japanese, they assume I can speak the language near native level. Someone, please, explain to me how an eleven year old kid to an eighteen year old can learn Japanese to a native level without any structure to their lessons combined with laziness, fear of mistakes, and lack of instruction? While I’m sure some can, I know I am not one of those people. I need structure and a bit of guidance, thanks!

Usually what happened was I would be doodling something or reading manga and someone would be all like “hey Kelly, can you say [insert sentence here] in Japanese?” and I would respond that I couldn’t. Then of course they would be all like “You’ll never learn Japanese, you’ve been trying for X years”. Yeah, you guys who are doubting me. I want YOU to try to learn a language based around characters all by yourself without a lesson structure. Yeah. I bet most of you wouldn’t make it.

It’s people like them who make me want to learn Japanese. It makes me want to go up to them one day and tell them right to their face that I can speak Japanese. Heck, I could even say that right now. 日本語は話します (“nihongo wa hanashimasu”). Of course, if they asked me to continue as of right now, I would fail at it.

I know that using other people as motivation isn’t really a good reason as the number one reason, but it is what pushes me. Just so I can prove people wrong. On the other side of things, I want to prove to myself I can learn Japanese. It’s not a hopeless childhood dream that I’ll never get to. It’s something I can definitely do and I will do it, no matter how long it takes.

I don’t want to feel that my interest in Japan and exposure to the language was a waste. Occasionally, no, rarely, I feel that way. The thought does occasionally float across my mind, but I quickly shoo it out with my reasons of why I will continue to learn Japanese.

I guess summary wise:
1.) I want to prove those who think I’ll never learn Japanese wrong and let those who believe I will learn Japanese be happy when I reach such a goal.
2.) I don’t want to feel my exposure is a waste.
3.) Um, more reading materials. Lame reason, but I love reading stuff in Japanese. I can then stop relying on English translations and just translate things myself.
4.) Language learning is exciting. It’s one of those things you can be all like “oh hey, I know Japanese” to people.
5.) It’s a childhood dream of mine to learn Japanese. So I will do it.
6.) I want to prove to myself I can learn the language.
7.) It gives me a tiny bit of access to that part of the world. Not the biggest reason. In fact, it’s more of one of those fake reasons I give myself.

Really. Admit it myself. Learning it to communicate with Japanese people is just a fake reason. You don’t really care about that. Your reasons are that you want to prove people wrong, make the assumptions of actually knowing tons of Japanese true, you find it fun to learn the language, and it’s so exciting to be able to read Japanese when you do.

I don’t really care about communicating with Japanese people. I mean, when I was younger I did. Now I don’t really want to. I mean, people are people. If I do communicate with Japanese people in their original language, that’s cool. However, it’s not a reason to me to learn the language. It’s stupid. It’s like I’m trying to “fit in”.

No. I don’t want to fit in! I’m fine with not fitting in correctly places. I’m learning Japanese for me. Not for other people. Well, exception to that little bit of people who motivate me to learn the language, which are mainly the doubters and the assumers. Though, if you twist it the right way, it’s actually for me too. It’s like those doubters and assumers are just those voicing my internal thoughts out loud. From the stomach stabbing “you’ll never learn it” from the doubters to the “I thought you knew it” from the assumers, they’re all unpleasant reminders of my internal doubts.

Do you also know what’s an unpleasant reminder? Those who are about the same age as you and are farther than you and have always been farther than you. They’re far immersed in the language then you have ever been and it’s actually quite irritating. Part of it’s jealousy and part of it is just the feeling that they’re snobbish about it. They kind of give off this “Japan is better” feeling when they start talking about it or something in Japanese. I used to be like that, but I’ve been over it for several years now. So now when I come across those who are like that, it just makes me want to pop a blood vessel!

Of course, Kelly, myself, you should not let that get you down! REMEMBER! Everyone learns different ways and at different paces. Something that may take someone a week to get down may take you a month. Just go at your own pace and do not compare yourself to others. Only compare yourself to yourself. The only person you should be competing against is yourself. For instance, as of this date, I am barely through lesson four of Genki I and know probably about 30-40 kanji, but not perfectly. Rather than being jealous of those who know 100 kanji right now and been through all of Genki I, just think about yourself and how you can beat yourself. So you’re at lesson four right now. Set yourself a goal to reach lesson 5 by the end of this month. Look back at your past achievements and your current ones and compare. Only compare to yourself. No one else. Who cares if your friend you haven’t talked to for a year or two who has known more Japanese for the longest time know even more now? You shouldn’t feel down about it! They’ve worked for it. You need to work for yourself. Compete against yourself. Reach goals. Stop looking at their achievements and start looking at your own!

Kelly, really! Look at what you’ve achieved so far. You went from knowing nothing but words English borrowed from Japanese to having a new slew of vocabulary of 6 years of barely studying!
– In 6th grade you learned “baka” as your first Japanese word that wasn’t borrowed by English, as well as numbers 1-99 and the months (even though the months were a bit whacky at first since you didn’t know about certain pronunciations had to be used).
– From 6th grade to…I believe 10th grade, you learned random vocabulary words you just happened to pick up reading random places, looking up in your kanji dictionary, and more. It was small, didn’t make much sense, but still was a bit of achievement.
– In 10th grade, April 2008, YOU LEARNED KANA. KELLY. YOU LEARNED KANA. YOU LEARNED FREAKIN’ KANA. Remember when you used to look at it, wishing you could read it? Well, NOW YOU CAN! Doesn’t it make you want to go up to your younger self and be all like “HEY. YOUNGER SELF. I CAN READ KANA NOW. I WIN”? I mean, you couldn’t write most of it and it would take you another two years to actually learn how to write it, but hey. YOU COULD READ IT. MAJOR ACHIEVEMENT RIGHT THERE. Before you can write, you need to learn how to read! You almost entirely got through Pocket Monsters Special volume 10 too and learned a few kanji, including the one for “nani” (what) and “miru” (to see).
– In 12th grade, you finally learned of the Genki textbook series and picked it up, grabbing a hold of a structured lesson. You reviewed kanji you’ve known for quite a bit now, as well as gained a nice list of vocabulary words, learned a bit of grammar, and can now put sentences together! You can also read a few basic paragraphs now. Remember how you read that paragraph in the back of the Genki textbook with the lesson 3 kanji lesson and translated it for Ryan, who then asked you “I thought you couldn’t understand it”? Yeah. That was an awesome moment right there. Might have been designed by the textbook so you could read and understand it, but it was still awesome to have someone actually doubt your earlier claim of not being able to understand Japanese even though you can read it.

How did I feel when I first learned hiragana and katakana? Impatient. I remember feeling horribly impatient. I remember at first working one by one on each row of hiragana and katakana on Real Kana.com until I got finished with the “ta” row. I was flipping through Pocket Monsters Special volume 10, I believe (which is why I chose to read it in the first place), quizzing myself. I remember getting so frustrated I could only read about half of the kana and there was a heck of a lot more. Since I was so impatient, I just checked all the character sets and began doing trial and error until I memorized them all. I then used the internet to look up anything I couldn’t learn on there. Particularly those really weird ones that are suppose to be romanized as “v” or something, like ゔぃ(“vi”). However, after learning kana, I felt…happy.

It was…kind of amazing. I wanted to learn how to read it for the longest time and I finally did it! In only a few hours too. Of course, the next step was to learn how to write it, but I didn’t really feel like that was too important to me at that moment. I did practice, but um…the writing it over and over again wasn’t helping me too much. I wasn’t too concerned either since I wanted to read and cared less about the actual writing part.

Of course, when it came to this year, 2010, I actually had to learn how to write it for the Genki textbook, since I really hate using romaji. Hiragana didn’t take me too long after I used whatever iPod Touch app I used. It was something with “kana” in the name. I think it took me like…a day or two of serious studying to get it down. For some reason, with katakana, I just didn’t feel like learning how to write it. Of course, I pushed myself to learn it by repeating the iPod Touch app over and over again and doing the textbook exercises.

It felt kind of cool, but also kind of shruggable too learning it. I mean, here I was in the year 2010, finally being able to write in kana. It was awesome looking down at my own kana handwriting – which looks similar to my English handwriting – since I wanted to do it for so long. However, I did discover it felt just like writing always does. It kind of made me feel like nonchalant about it. So on one side of things it felt cool, but on another side of things, it didn’t.

There was a bit of a swelling in my heart being able to see myself writing in kana, finally, though.

How did I feel about finally getting to study Japanese properly after about five years? Oh, man. I was super excited. Super happy too. The textbook was a dream come true, I was pretty excited about my custom course for school (which I never actually did), and I was actually learning. I remember sitting outside and just overlooking the backyard, studying Japanese, which felt nice. Then there was that time I was just working on one of my assignments and I felt…happy. Like, a comfortable, cloud-like happiness. I guess content? I remember just looking down at my notebook and textbook and thinking on how I was finally learning Japanese properly and how much I liked it. It felt natural and pretty easy, other than the few times my brain froze and was unsure what to do. Obviously that was out of fear of making a mistake.

How did I feel when I was in Japan? Pretty…stuck up at first, actually. My mind didn’t really sink in I was in Japan. It didn’t really do that until I went to Shibuya and interacted with the sales people. Even then, it was subtle. It really told me in order for me to truly get in the mood to learn Japanese and speak it, I need to hear it for quite a while. Actually walking in Japan though felt rather…I say “normal”, but I guess “natural” is a better word. Even when I was lost, it felt pretty natural. Granted, I was in Tokyo which is more westernized, or so they say.

How do I feel when reading sentences and paragraphs? Tired, usually. Most of the time I’m doing it to make sure I can still read kana, even though I can’t understand it. The only time sentences and paragraphs become not tiring is when I can actually understand them. At first I didn’t really care about understanding them, but now that I’m kind of at the point where my reading is only a few speeds below my English reading, I kind of want to understand what I’m reading now. Obviously I’m not in a rush, but if I can get a move on, that would be nice.

When I can understand the paragraphs or sentences, I feel proud of myself! Since I couldn’t when I was younger and trying to learn Japanese. Even now, since there’s so little I understand, it’s pretty dang awesome to come across that one sentence in my Pokémon games that I can actually read and understand.

Why am I continuing to study Japanese? Other than the reasons I already listed? Simply because I seem to enjoy it. I can’t really describe it any other way – I enjoy it. The kanji, the grammar, making sentences, everything. It’s…fun.

What are my study goals? Well, that will be answered in the next note!

So this is it! This is my own introduction to my Japanese study. Kelly, don’t forget!
– Don’t compare yourself to others. Compare yourself to yourself.
– Remember your goals.
– Work hard.
– Do your best!

And that was the pep talk/evaluation/note to myself. Maybe you should try your own!

The one thing I don’t think I mentioned was that I’m in too far to give up now.

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