I am learning Japanese on my own and my main goal is to read Japanese novels. As a result, I mainly focused (and am still focusing) on improving my reading skills. It took me years to be able to say “I learn this language only to read books, I am not interested in communicating with natives” and not be ashamed of it.
I once heard a professor say that the main purpose of a language was to communicate and that learning with books (reading and translating) was nonsense, that a language was, first of all, a spoken act. Since then, I started feeling unqualified or even unauthorised to say “learning languages is my favourite hobby” because I am not a social person and I usually prefer spending my time alone than with other people, except for close relationships.
As a consequence, I ended up being ashamed of my speaking level and of the gap that created itself between my reading/test level and my communication skills. What is strange is that I even started feeling guilty and sometimes hid the fact that I could read in a language (but could not speak). It somehow felt easier to deny any competence in a language than to admit that I could read but not speak.
One day, I saw a friend reading a book in German. I asked him if he could speak German and he answered that he could not speak German or communicate in it, that he could just read. I remember that I was impressed and repeated with admiration “you can read books in German?!”
I don’t know why, but it took me a long time to realise that, what I was despising in myself and admiring in this friend was exactly the same thing. And of course, being able to read a language without speaking it is a thousand time more glorious than not knowing the language at all.
So yes, there is an enormous gap between my speaking and my reading levels. I don’t live in Japan, I don’t have Japanese friends so I don’t feel the urge to improve my speaking. On the other hand, I have always been interested in Japanese literature, but I have been frustrated with the translations I read until now. Reading Japanese great authors and contemporary novels in Japanese is my ultimate goal. I also want to improve my listening level and I occasionally work on my writing and speaking, not as much because I want to improve them but because practising speaking and writing is fun in itself.
This blog helps me to stay motivated and to give a structure to my language journey.
About the blog.
This blog changed a lot since I first created it. As it stands now, I update it three times a week:
- On Mondays, I write some general reflexions about my learning Japanese, the strategies and material I use, the exercises I practice…
- On Wednesdays, I write about the novels or other books I read in Japanese.
- On Fridays, I write about the things I did during the week to stay in contact with the Japanese language. While my main goal is to read novels, I still want to improve my listening skills, to be able to read the news in Japanese, understand films without subtitles and get to know Japanese culture, society and history better.