When I first started learning Japanese, I would go to conversation class and feel that some days my Japanese game was right on, and some days my game was way off. I’d start class feeling pretty good, but after a while, I would have a harder and harder time understanding so that by the end of class, I’d leave feeling completely overwhelmed and thinking I was never going to get the hang of this.
Things were like this for a long while. I’d feel like I really got the hang of something one week, but then the next week I’d find that I had mixed something else up completely and was back at square one when it came to the conversations.
I started pre-studying, reviewing the next lesson prior to class so I’d have at least half a clue during class. For the most part, this worked out great and I had a much better grasp on things, but then I’d run up against a bunch of vocabulary that I didn’t have time to review and would have to ask sensei to please explain just about every other word.
Since finally getting Lolli into hoikuen (daycare) twice a week and signing up for the JLPT N4 test in December, I’m making a much more concentrated effort to study and I feel like it really shows. I get to study for a few hours in the afternoon twice a week and I focus the studying on vocabulary, kanji writing/reading, and verb conjugations geared towards the test.
The vocabulary is always the most important to me. I find that I know how to create the basic sentence structure, but I just don’t know the right word to use. When I used to take French in high school, my teacher always said that my weakness was my limited vocabulary, but my strength was being able to explain what I needed using that limited vocabulary. I find myself doing this in Japanese all the time, which makes for quite awkward conversations sometimes!
It’s always so embarrassing when sensei compliments me on Japanese skill because I still feel like I’m floundering most of the time. There are plenty of times when I need to ask for help or just resort to checking my dictionary instead.
But at least, it seems like those times are happening less often than it was at the very beginning. If I can understand half of the conversation, I feel like I really got somewhere.