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Learning A New Language

December 6, 2016

The first time I was exposed to Japanese was when my brother introduced me to songs by Hideki Saijo (西城 秀樹).  We have no idea what the song was about but we managed to sing a few of his songs.  Initially we needed the lyrics (in RO MA Ji) but after many times, it became 滚瓜烂熟 (gun gua lan shu — roll melon rotten cooked) memorized.  We continue to perfect the accent, perfect the pitch/tone and perfect to sound like a native/local.

It was not until I was in the 30’s tht I ‘ve decided to learn some cool traveler’s Japanese.  Since I have a chance to pick my favourite, I remember I picked “Are you free tonight?” and practice until even the accent was indistinguishable from a native Tokyoite.  It does not make any sense to do that, as whenever someone answer my question in Japanese, I would have no way to understand the reply.  To prepare for that, I went a few steps further:

Me:  Kon ban o hima desu ka?                                          (Are you free tonight?)

She:  A….domo…iye                                                              (No, I’m sorry)

Me:  Do Shite?                                                                        (Why?)

And following that, I again would have no way of understanding let alone replying.  That was meaningless and shortlived fun for me.  But many years later, my friend dragged me along to take Japanese 102 class (skipping 101).  I took it reluctantly, struggled initially, had some fun with it and didn’t get a good grade.

I called that a 5-minute enthusiasm (五分钟热度)。

Last week, I chance upon a Taiwanese lady teaching Tibetan.  Again I was distracted.  I do not know how this distraction comes about.  Maybe it is another language, like Mandarin, Cantonese, it is tonal.   She only taught   (    ), and the whole night, I thought about those characters, wrote them in the air, wanting to perfect the “knowing”.  Whatever will it be for, I have no idea.  Then the next morning, I realize there are 30 of these characters I have to learn.  And for the i, U, E and O sounds of each of the 30 characters, I have to learn “kiku”, “siakkio”, “Jempo” and “Naro” vowels to go with them.  And there are probably another 6 more vowels that were not so common.  So this is like ” A, i, U, E ,O, and Ka, Ki Ku Ke Ko ” all over again as in Japanese.  Would this be another 5-minute enthusiasm (五分钟热度)?  I wonder.

But then, I should not think of its uses and benefits too much.  In the very least, they are interesting to me right now.  In the ChenReZig, we chant in Kagyu lineage Buddhist Center in this city, there are Tibetan characters on top of the English sounds.  For another short reason, this will start new neurons developing in my brain and reduce my chance of getting Dementia.  And it might sound silly, but I follow along and go to webpages and try to sing the characters songs for children, much like singing ABC in English.  This is only learning the alphabet, wish me luck.

For a list of the simple characters, please go to this link


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