This past April, while visiting at my friend Ekay’s house, she introduced me to a Japanese reality show called Terrace House. We didn’t even finish an entire episode, but it had piqued my interest enough that I decided to look for it on Netflix a few days later. I’m not sure how it happened, but suddenly I was watching it at every spare moment. I even downloaded episodes for when I was out of the house, and finished 3 seasons in a month. ? I’m a believer of the theory that what occupies your mind manifests in your life, so it was destiny that I was given the opportunity to write about the show a few months ago for Spot Japan.
I’ve always known this, but never said it aloud: I have an addictive personality. When I like something or someone, I have a tendency to obsess. It has happened with books, food, shows, games, and personalities. My newest craze? Learning/mastering languages on Duolingo.
I went on an out-of-town gig with Baihana, and I noticed Mel speaking Spanish into her phone at random times of the day. She told me she was learning the language on an app, and showed me how the lessons were designed. There were word matching exercises, speaking drills, and sentence formulation tasks — all presented in the likeness of a game. That was enough for me to download it myself as soon as I got home from the trip.
My main goal was to learn Japanese. I’ve jokingly explained to friends that I want to be able to watch shows without subtitles, but really it’s in preparation for a trip I’ve been trying to go on for years. The original plan was to be fluent within a year, but it’s been more than a quarter, and I’m realizing the intricacies of this language is no joke.
First, I had to learn how to decipher the symbols. The app starts the lessons with hiragana, which is a syllabary and component of the Japanese writing system. In less than a week, I finished all those lessons and could read entire sentences, without knowing what they meant. I remember thinking, ‘hey, this is easier than I thought it’d be!’ but I spoke too soon. Slowly, it introduced katakana and kanji (adapted Chinese Han characters), and that was when it got serious. ? I had to imagine the symbols as drawings or stories just to remember what they stood for.
When I reached the level when I had to translate sentences, the next challenge was understanding their structure (like flipped English), the use of particles, and when to use their seemingly countless honorifics (words that convey respect of rank). So far, I’ve finished the exercises on food, greetings, and telling the time; but the lessons have gotten more and more difficult, that some days I didn’t feel motivated to open the app. What kept me going was the log in streak, because unlocking achievements is life. (Said like a true gamer). ?
— One Day, Kaye (@Kaichypoo) September 10, 2019
Well, whaddaya know, 2 days ago I hit 100. I’m currently learning concepts on home, the characters for the prefectures, and counting (they use different words for numbers to tell time, count objects, or tiny animals). ?
Occasionally, I do drills in Spanish, Italian, and German. I didn’t realize how much I’d retained from learning Spanish since 3rd grade until I took the placement test on Duolingo. I had always downplayed the efficacy of our language classes, but so far I understand pretty much everything that’s being asked in my ongoing refresher. I’m guessing it’ll get harder when I’m done with the present tenses!
What surprised me more was that I also skipped through some basic lessons after my Italian and German placement. All those months living with host families during my touring days with the UP Concert Chorus must’ve taught me more than I perceived.
102 and going strong. ?? So glad this is one of those times when my addictive personality became an advantage. This generation is lucky to have these technologies. I’m really impressed by this app, despite some bugs and lapses in instruction. I’m gonna keep going until I can get rid of those subtitles. ? Wish it had Filipino and our other native languages, because I’ve been wanting to learn Bicolano and Bisaya! Who wants to learn languages with me? I’ll want someone to practice with!
P.S. Other current obsessions: Zelda, Breath of the Wild (to my mom’s absolute dismay), pesto on everything (because my mom made too much for a previous order), finding ways to get rid of rats❗️