I Think I’m Learning Japanese – SHORT STORY

Japanese Flag

…SICK OF NETFLIX BINGES. Vomitous at the price of alcohol. Puking from superfluous dalliances with two faced friends, or the never ending cycle, of meaningless likes and comments on social media. Retching at the thought of my ex whoring herself on Tinder.
It was time to do something constructive, something that had meaning beyond a broadband connection, something real!

I picked up an eight disc set of Learning Japanese in Three Months in a charity shop. I didn’t know any Japanese people. I’d never been to Japan. But when I did, well, I’d be prepared dammit.

After psychology lectures at university I’d come home, resist the urge to press a power button, to pick up a tablet or laptop. I sat at my desk and worked my way through the basics of Japanese from the accompanying booklet to the CD’s, fascinated by the characters and revelling in trying to pronounce new words. After a week I was ready to give up. Not helped by Tommy, my obnoxious Irish flatmate, who’d hear me stumbling over words and rip the piss out of me, either solo or with his band of reprobate friends.
“He tinks he’s turnin’ Japanese, he really tinks so!” I’d hear that through the thin walls as they laughed. I was going for a second language. Tommy couldn’t even speak English.

Before bed I’d load a CD and listen to it before I drifted off, recanting the female instructors pronunciation in my head, trying to string words together, before descending into confusing dreams requiring subtitles.
A friend at university told me that my subconscious might be learning as I slept. In fact some people believed you could programme the mind using that method: listening while sleeping.

Excited at the prospect, I loaded the CD’s every night without fail. Weeks passed. My Japanese still stuck at ignorant foreigner level. Persevering I let the discs spin, drifting off to my Japanese teachers beautiful voice.

On the way back from university by bus, I saw some Japanese students sitting in front of me on the top deck. They were discussing a business assignment. One of them had nearly failed. The other was rubbing it in, boasting about their grade, but reassuring their friend that a pass was a pass. They smiled.
In my post-Animal-Behaviour-lecture-daze, I thought nothing of it.
Wait! I understood them! I knew what they were saying! I CAN UNDERSTAND JAPANESE!
I wanted to announce it to the bus, but refrained. Instead, focusing on the Japanese, listening in, not understanding 100% but it’d be enough to engage in a conversation.

I told Tommy about the success of the CD’s when I arrived home. Typically dismissive he waved me away, sprawled on the sofa binging on an episode of Archer.

Over the next week, I suddenly had the urge to do all the dish washing and cleaning. I felt my Japanese had stuttered as well. “Good lad!” Tommy would say with a glint in his eyes, seeing me at the sink or vacuum in hand.

I discovered Tommy had been replacing the language CD’s with ones he’d recorded, instructing me to do all the household chores. Smart?! – maybe. Sloppy? – definitely. He failed to get up early enough one morning to take his CD out.

I continued to be the house bitch, yes Tommy, the “Dobby”, that’s right, very witty, whistling as I cleaned the mess daily. Because what Tommy didn’t know, is that I had been sneaking into his room with a digital recorder. Oh, in about a weeks time, Tommy would suddenly find he hated his degree, wouldn’t show up for his exams, and he was going to leave for Dublin, never to come back, freeing up a space in the flat, possibly very suitable for a Japanese person.

I looked over at Tommy watching TV, my hands covered in suds while I repeated out loud:

知らぬが仏

Shiranu ga hotoke!

(Ignorance is bliss)

11 Comments

  1. I wonder if I should be doing that with the Spanish language software and junk I had accumulated over years of failed attempts at learning it in a land filled with it… but probably not.

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