Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Learning Tagalog?

I have been studying Japanese off and on throughout my time here in Japan. I am by no means fluent, but I feel as I have hit a plateau. I've read it's common among intermediate level speakers.  It's good enough for basic, everyday conversations and I can communicate my general thoughts and feelings. Anything more substantial, though, and I'm lost.

It's not for lack of grammar--it's just vocabulary. I simply don't know enough words.

How does this relate to Tagalog?

Well, frankly, I need a break.

I've been trying to master so much kanji that learning Japanese has lost its fun. I no longer get the simple joys that come from speaking Japanese. There's no more reward from ordering food without embarrassing myself. I no longer feel good about being able to work a ticket machine and subway in a city I've never been to. It's now solely building vocabulary, and it gets tiring.

With Tagalog, it's a fresh start.

I get the simple pleasure from asking a basic question and understanding the response. There is immediate and noticeable improvement. Who cares if I know words relating to Japanese government if I don't use them on a daily basis? There's no clear threshold on whether I've learned them or not.

I miss that.

I mean, I 've been in UCLA's Samahang Pilipino Cultral Night... and all I can say is"Ako si Justin"? For shame.

Being friends with people who use Tagalog as a first language, or grew up using it at home, means that I have a clear way of seeing improvement. I am going from zero language ability, to something. And that difference is substantial. Having native speakers as friends not only means I have a means to learn, but they provide a chance to test what I've learned. Traditional methods such as books and CDs may be difficult to come by for Tagalog, but I can always test a new grammar point by running a sentence by a friend.

Perhaps more importantly, though, I have the motivation. Unlike, say, Korean (which I've been trying to bring myself to study for a while now), I can use it daily. It's useful right away, versus other languages that I can't practice or use. It's an access to a hidden world. Being able to talk without people listening in (unlike English, where there's always that chance) is kind of like being in on an inside joke. Learning even the basics gives me ability to speak "Taglish" or Tagalog-English.

Besides, who doesn't like having a new language to eavesdrop onto other people's conversations? At tapos, pwede naman ako magreturn to Japanese.