Learning Japanese: Week 3 Recap – This Week Drove Me To Drink (Figuratively)

I struggled a lot this week. Actually, I felt a lot of things. Anxiety, futility, the increasingly unavoidable thought that maybe I should abandon my current course of study and switch things up completely – get a tutor, start working through Genki, etc.

This happened somewhere around Pimsleur lesson 20. I’d already been failing to internalized some the previous lessons’ vocabulary thanks to an especially busy and distracted week, and the problems seemed to be compounding. In one instance, a single troubling phrase seemed be giving me trouble:

Pimsleur Guy (We’ll call him “Mr. P”): “Tell the woman ‘He would like to drink water'”

Me: “Uh, “Mizu wa nomimas”

Speaker: “Mizu o nomitagatte ir u n desu ga.

Me: Huh?

Speaker: “Mizu”

Me: “Mizu o nomi-wat??”

Mr. P: “Now say ‘two bottles of beer’.”

Me: “Wait, what was that just now-“

First off – what? In the lessons, we’d gone over a couple ways to say “to drink”, the tried and true nomimas and the trickier nomitaidesu. I’d never learned to discern to the two, but now pimsleur was throwing nomitagatte iru n in my face, and just blowing it off like it was no big deal. What was this new form of “to drink”, this third form ever so daftly plucked open the increasingly flimsy understanding of the first and second form? Why do I keep using the wrong articles? Am I expected to be able to actually speak this whole sentence?

I began to suspect that my whole understanding of Japanese garnered over the last ten hours was just a house of cards just waiting for this very sort gentle breeze to send it flying to the ground. I got mad at Pimsleur (“something is wrong with this methodology”) and then mad at myself (“I’ve just been doing it all wrong, I’ve been too lazy about how I take these lessons”). I had genuinely insane thoughts: maybe I’ll do lessons 1-20 again, laying in bed, with my eyes shut, over 10 hours of perfect concentration”.

Thankfully, I got over myself, and then got over my problem. I went into the Skills and Practice phrasebooks, and looked up the words that had been giving me a problem. I didn’t learn everything I needed, but I gained a level of comfort with the phrases that were showing up in lessons. Next time I heard nomitagatte iru n desu ga it triggered me less, I still didn’t understand why it was different than the others, but I no longer felt upset about it.

Ultimately, I went further – I decided to ask a Japanese person who had messaged me earlier on Tandem. I messaged with them in English for awhile, and then explained that while my Japanese wasn’t good enough to be a good language partner, I had a few questions. They gave me the downlow on my to drink dilemma. Here I quote them exactly:

Nomimas – “I drink ..”

Nomitaidesu – “I want to drink ..”

Nomitagatte imasu – “Someone wants to drink ..”

So, there we go. I still have no idea what iru n meant, but as Pimsleur tends to, it moved on to new material, only occasionally diving back into Nomitagatte territory. I feel a tepid level of comfort and security that I can proceed as is, existential crisis deferred.

Hiragana and Katakan

I didn’t do as much of this as I wanted, but I did catch up on the Reading lessons and have made them a daily part of my study. Slowly, the hiragana are sinking in. All I can say is, at this point, I still do wish that the reading lessons corresponded more with the speaking lessons, but I have heard that this problem is less pronounced later in the course – especially in the Level 2 course. I also downloaded Hiragana Hero – it’s fun! Good way to practice your recognition, I only wish that in included a few words instead of just individual hiragana.

Oh, and…

We did go see Weathering with You. It was a nice, atmospheric movie with a very consistently and effectively conveyed tone. There were certain plot points near the end that I didn’t love – but on the whole the animation, the story, and the music were all very nice! A worthy follow-up to the solid Your Name, and I’ve been listening to the soundtrack on and off all week.

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