Friday, August 23, 2013

Reaching for the moon

We left all our English books behind when we came to Japan 34 years ago. We intended to learn to read and write Japanese and we didn’t need any distractions! I boldly imagined myself reading Japanese ever so fluently at the end of our two year language course.

But in our second year of language school my teacher told me she didn’t expect me ever to reach that goal. And a look around was not encouraging!

There was Vaccari – the Italian editor of the gargantuan dictionary my husband used. There was Nelson – the man who composed the amazing kanji dictionary we used. Surely these men could read and write Japanese like native speakers!

But when it came to people we actually knew… There really weren’t many (any?) fluent readers among the missionaries of our early acquaintance.

I had to admit that perhaps I was reaching for the moon…


But I kept at it. I read elementary school textbooks with an old woman in our neighborhood. I tried Kumon – a lot money, a lot of worksheets.

I did learn a lot of culture but literary fluency was still the moon.

And I still wanted the moon!

Perhaps it was ushered in by all the technological changes sweeping our world – electronic dictionaries, interactive websites, etc. – but at some point I began to sense a real change in the intellectual climate of my “gaijin” world.

This spring when Daughter # 4 showed me a website entitled  “How to Learn 2000 Kanji in Three Months” I was intrigued. I read the article. It was more than intriguing… his logic seemed good. Perhaps my desire for literacy wasn’t the moon. Perhaps literacy for foreigners – this foreigner! – was possible!

My first thought was to take it on as a Lenten project. But although it would certainly involve sacrifice, I wasn’t sure it was a “spiritual” project….  I debated. I decided against it.

But a few weeks into Lent I realized that “spiritual” or not, it was a necessary project. My life as a missionary has always been deeply hampered by minimal literacy. (So has my life in general!)

So I began. And I made my first major goalpost – I finished Heisig’s “Remembering the Kanji” just one week later than planned.

finish kanji

June 9, 2013

(Husband bought me flowers to celebrate!)


Celia Olson said...

おめでとうございます。 Shall I write some obscure kanji here to celebrate?

Laurie Elliot said...

He, he. But seriously thank you! It's been refreshing to have 後輩 that are coming up behind us so fast that I feel seriously challenged for a change.