Saturday, June 29, 2019

Some Rambling on about Studying and (Somehow) Wilco

Preparing for the JLPT again. For those of you that don’t know what this is, it’s a standardized test to show your proficiency in Japanese. I missed the 2nd highest level last winter by about ten percentage points. Not fully sure why I’m taking it again. Other than revenge. And the possibility it might be handy on my resume at some point. And it does kick my ass to study. 

A little late to get my study on, but I think I can gear up in a couple of weeks. I’ve been doing a practice test every week and trying to dig in on my weak point, grammar. Seems to be working.

It’s interesting how necessities shift as you learn a language. Of course, all aspects of the language have their value and work together, but at different stages of development, different skills need more tuning.

For example, early on in language learning, I find that speaking and listening are the most important aspects to develop. Getting the sounds right and some basic back and forth is what you really need to build from. It gets you using the language as a tool to communicate rather than be tested on. Well, test in real life as opposed to filling in dots on an answer sheet. 

But you can only get so far focusing on listening and speaking alone. Saying something like “Where’s the toilet” or “I’ll have the noodles, please” is easy enough to pick up just in conversation, but something as seemingly simple as “I prefer noodles to rice” or “If it doesn’t rain, let’s go to the park” require some real hours of grammar head scratching, which, of course, also means reading.

I find the hardest part of making this shift in focus is recognizing when it’s necessary. Like any skill as you become better, you want to keep improving on your strengths, even if it means ignoring your weaknesses. Or, if you’re like me, finding ways in which your weakness are somehow, magically not weaknesses because where they lie are in aspects of your learning that are unimportant (ie grammar). In truth though, I now realize with some focused study in grammar I can really improve my understanding overall; what might seem like a boring task trying to improve something I’m not good at, can help me find breakthroughs in my strengths in ways that working on them alone just wouldn’t accomplish. 

What am I trying to say here? That is, beyond playing around with some thoughts on studying for a test most of you could care less about? 

It’s this, that learning is a wild thing. Tangential fields can open your mind in ways that you won’t know until you try. The things that you find dull, if you can find some interest in them, you can gain a better understanding for the things you love. And maybe even find something new to love. Hey, maybe you should study some Japanese?

I recently heard Jeff Tweedy of Wilco talking about how most of the music he listens to lately is music from genres he hates because he’s looking what it is he doesn’t know, trying to understand what there is to that music that makes people love it where he hates it. 

Who knows, maybe such exploration is what will help us find one another. Or maybe I'm just studying a little too much lately.