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A Proper Introduction

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A Proper Introduction

Postby lalaith » Mon 04.23.2007 1:37 am

I figured it was about time I properly introduced myself. As this will be my 87th post, I'd say it was "high time" I introduced myself.

My name is Margaret. The Japanese version of my name is マーガラ. That's not what the name translations pages say, but that's what my mother and her family called me. My mother also called me ポコちゃん (Pokochan). You can feel free to call me by my screen name of lalaith or by my real name in English or Japanese. I'm debating whether or not to revive the nickname of Poko.

If you've been reading my posts then you know I am half-Japanese on my mother's side. I'm sure there's some Japanese term for that, but I don't know what it is. I think of myself as Amerasian as that was the term used here in the U.S. before "Japanese-American" came into vogue.

My mother was from a town on the outskirts of Tokyo called Kokubunji. She was one of 12 children of a Japanese share-cropper. The pre-WWII Japan she grew up in is quite different from the Japan of today. For one thing, find me a family that has 12 kids nowadays.

She and my father met when my father was stationed in Japan. Her family did not object to the union, possibly because the land reform instituted by the Americans after WWII was to their great benefit. My father's family, at least some of them, did object.

After they married, my parents moved to the states where all three of us kids were born. My father had promised my mother he would take her back to Japan, so in the 1970's we did move back for three years.

Should you be interested, you can see a picture of me the year before we went to Japan here:
http://www.thejapanesepage.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=20&t=6381&rowstart=240
And, by the way, if you saw me today, you could recognize me from that picture. Other than being older (and my hair a lot longer), my facial features have not changed.

It was when we were living in Japan that I got to know my mother's family, all of whom treated me with affection and acceptance. I've been fortunate enough to go back to Japan once as an adult to visit them, though sadly my grandmother had passed away.

But my primary experience of the Japanese culture comes from having lived with a Japanese mother day in and day out for my entire childhood. Japan was always a part of our lives from the decorations on the wall, to the food that we ate, to every time I looked in the mirror -- as I look very much like my mother. (Except on her it looked Japanese, on me it does not. No one ever guesses I'm half Japanese when they see me -- though I suspect my hair and the way I'm built have a lot to do with that, because my hair and my build are definitely not found among the Japanese populace.)

But because I do know the Japanese culture to a certain degree, I have a difficult time when I meet people who say how great Japan is and how fantastic everything is about the culture. I lived there; I'm of there. Last time I checked the Japanese weren't divine beings, weren't angels. I know I don't come with one wing and half a halo.

It's a human civilization and, as such, has its positives and its negatives. It's different from America, but I don't happen to think its better, just different. Yeah, some aspects of it are better, some are worse. I appreciate its culture, but I'm not blind to its flaws. So when I meet those "everything about Japan is wonderful" people I have to restrain the urge to slap them up side the head and say, "What are you stupid or just naive?" However, for the most part I find them to be just --- young, very young.

Still the fact that I'm half-Japanese is not, necessarily, the reason I want to learn Japanese. By some wild coincidence, both my brothers are half-Japanese and they aren't learning it.

I've always regretted the fact I did not grow up bilingual. My chance to be naturally, truly fluent in the Japanese language is one I never had. My parents made the decision we would learn only English. I suppose that was kind of a family tradition. My father's father was a German immigrant from Russia whose native language was German, but he didn't teach his language to his kids either. So we learned only English.

But that old dream to have been bilingual isn't why I'm here. I'll never be fluent in Japanese.

I do want something else. And it's my first goal for the Japanese language. It may also turn out to be my final goal. I'm shrugging my shoulders because, at this point, I don't know.

I have this stack of children's books from when we were living in Japan. I used to ask my mother to read them to me, and she would -- in Japanese. So I'd interrupt and say, "No, in English." She'd then proceed to look at a page of text and come out with a single sentence. I could have figured that much out from looking at the illustrations.

So I told myself that one day, one day, I would read those books.

As as adult I look at them and think, "How much Japanese do I have to learn to be able to read books written for six to eight year olds?"

Notice, I did not say how much Japanese would I have to know to speak like a six to eight year old. An eight year old may have a limited vocabulary and make some grammatical mistakes, but an eight year old is fluent in his native tongue.

Are those books my only reason for learning Japanese? Probably not. The subconscious is a tangled thing. And I suspect my mother's death a couple of years ago plays a part. (My father died when I was child.) But those books are the reason I can put a name to.

So I'm taking a class, a non-credit night class using "Japanese for Busy People, Volume I." We cover a lesson a week & if enough people sign up for the next semester we should almost be able to go through the book. I'd like to, as this is probably the closest thing I'll get to formal instruction. The local university does offer Japanese, but at $500 a semester, well, let's just say I could get a lot of instructional books, CDs, etc for that kind of money.

So here are my immediate goals. They don't begin to compare to some of the ones I've seen on this site which are lofty, to say the least, but my goals are realistic for me:

By the time we finish "Japanese for Busy People Volume 1" I want to be able to
1 Read hiragana at a reasonable speed
2 Be able to identify parts of speech and understand basic grammar
so that I can:
3 Translate the two simplest of those books I have

Then I'll probably self-study the next two volumes of "Japanese for Busy People". It's not the textbook I would have chosen, but as it was chosen for me, I'll probably stick with the series. At the end of having finished the "Japanese for Busy People" series, which I'm guessing will take about another year after the class ends -- assuming I keep the same pace of a lesson a week -- I hope I will be able to translate the most advanced of the books.

As this is my introduction and I can natter about anything I want to as long as it's vaguely related, let me natter some more.

I find this forum to be an amazing place.

I find the mere concept of it to be breathtaking.

It's a site whose purpose is to help other people to learn solely out of the goodness of your heart and with no more reward than the satisfaction of having helped someone.

For those of you who've been here a while, just stop and think about that for a moment. And for those of you who, like me, are new to this site pause in awe at that. It's a very special thing.

There's that line from A Streetcar Named Desire: "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers." That's what this site is based on, the kindness of strangers. Maybe sometimes people don't like how something is said, but you can't deny the intent behind (most of) it is well meant.

I've been offered that kindness time and again in the ninteen days I've been on this site. That perfect strangers are willing to stop what they are doing in order to help me is not something I take for granted. And I thank you for it.

I will never be able to contribute as much to this forum as I get from it. I'll never be the one answering the grammar questions or giving translations. But I hope I will be able to contribute to it some, albeit in different ways.

I'm glad I'm here.
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lalaith
 
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RE: A Proper Introduction

Postby spin13 » Mon 04.23.2007 4:40 am

I find your honesty, perspective, and ability to write clearly an oasis in this sandbox we call the internet. 'Specially 'round these parts. Thank you.

If anybody calls, I'll be out destroying something beautiful.

With all the sincerity I can muster,
-Eric
You're probably not as smart as you think.
Unskilled and Unaware
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Native language: English
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RE: A Proper Introduction

Postby tanuki » Tue 04.24.2007 8:53 pm

Welcome to the site!

I will never be able to contribute as much to this forum as I get from it. I'll never be the one answering the grammar questions or giving translations.


Never say never. In fact, I'm sure you'll be able to contribute quite a bit grammar-wise after a while. Heck, if even I can contribute sometimes... :D

I wish you much success in your Japanese learning goals. With a good ammount of effort, you might even surpass your expectations.

Have fun in the forum! :)
僕の下手な日本語を直してください。
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