This morning I was in a rush to make it to the gym. I tossed my protein into my bag, hopped on my bike and high-tailed it to the gym. I saw a pedestrian light that had just turned red, but I decided to keep pedaling anyway because traffic light was still green. Imagine my surprise when I saw a police officer in a yellow rain suit, standing directly in front of me on the other side of the street with that “You know you messed up” look on his face. He stopped me and gave me a talking to. It was my fault, so I couldn’t be mad at him for doing his job. I didn’t catch every single word he was saying but I did hear a word I didn’t recognize しんごう (shingou) which means traffic signal or traffic light. The officer was pretty nice about it and waved with a ”きをつけてね” “Kiwotsukete ne.” or “Be careful, alright?” I felt pretty stupid for crossing the street with a police officer smack kadab in front of me, but the word shingou will be etched in my memory forever. What initially seemed like a troublesome situation actually turned into a learning opportunity. There are so many other instances where you can use events from your everyday life in Japan to learn more Japanese language in a practical, exciting way.
On Sunday, October 31st, I went to Tokyo Disneyland with my friend Kana. As soon as we started walking around, she asked me if I wanted to practice my Japanese, and of course I said yes. I hadn’t seen Kana in over a year, so I wanted to see how my Japanese skills were measuring up. To be honest, it still sucked, but I understood so much more of what Kana was saying than I did the last time we spoke. She told me that my listening had gotten much better. I was happy to hear that, but I still wanted to be able to speak more. Being at Tokyo Disneyland meant I was going to be spending a lot of time in lines…waiting. Although Kana and I had no real huge lapses in conversation, I came prepared with my trusty Japanese verb cards. Kana is a teacher, too, and was so happy give me some Japanese pointers. She was also making me review…constantly. I was so happy because I picked up some great new vocab from her: kazoeru (かぞえる) which means to count, soru (そる) which means to shave, miageru (みあげる) which means to look up, mikudasu (みくだす) which means to look down on (for people), mushi (むし) which can mean to ignore, te wo furu (てをふる) which means to wave, atama wo furu (あたまをふる) which means to shake your head. We had time to go over so many things. She really seemed to enjoy helping me with my pronunciation, and testing my listening with different things we were hearing around the park. It was like taking a day-long Japanese class. By the end of the day, I didn’t realize I had picked up so much by hanging around Kana…for just one day. The practice and repetition were completely disguised because we were having such a great time.
These are just two instances of learning by disguised repetiton. There are numerous situations in which to engage the Japanese learning process. Where do you go on a regular basis? Grocery shopping? To the mall? To school? Japanese convenience stores, shopping malls, trains…you name it…will provide you with some chances to speak, read, listen, and (sometimes) even write in Japanese. So the next time you’re waiting in-line, or at a movie theater, or just doing your daily routine in Japan. See what opportunities you can take advantage of to improve your Japanese, they’re out there, if you’re willing to look for them