Week Nine – A Loss For Words

This week was the first time this term that I have felt truly stressed in a class. It wasn’t due to the homework or any upcoming tests, as the coursework here isn’t all that difficult. I was frustrated because I couldn’t find the right words to say in class.

Since arriving in Japan, I have continually challenged myself to express my myriad complex thoughts in Japanese. If I have something I want to say, I should try to say it in Japanese, even if I have to rethink my entire approach to saying what I mean. But when I can’t find the words, I pause and I simply cannot speak. I end up feeling trapped.

To add insult to injury, I found myself in a position after class where I was explaining to my teacher – who was worried I was having difficulties – this exact phenomenon. I was thankfully able to explain that when I can’t think of what to say, I freeze up and she understood, but when this stuff happens early into the class, I’m in a bad mood the rest of the time.

I’ve expressed for a while now that I don’t think I’ve been struggling in Japan the way that I expected to, but this moment made me rethink a lot of things. Am I interacting with Japanese people enough? Am I truly testing my Japanese skills thoroughly enough? If I can’t do either, why am I even here?

This was a small taste of what would be more intense if I went to a different school without NGU’s international appeal. I’m cursed and blessed with a lot of English speakers around me. Okay, I wouldn’t outright call it a curse but it definitely hasn’t pushed me out of my comfort zone as much, as happy as that makes me.

The truth is, Japanese isn’t super integral to what I aspire to do as a career. I took on this second major because I love the language and I was already planning on taking three years of Japanese classes. The study abroad trip is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and with only one or two extra classes in the major after the previous three years, it was a no-brainer.

The biggest lesson this week is that I should be glad that I’m meeting with my tutor weekly to chat for a little bit during lunch. I am passionate about Japanese and learning the language more because the culture of Japan speaks to me in a lot of ways. All that being said, I need to remind myself that I don’t need to beat myself up if I go back home not having improved a huge amount.

At the time this new journal entry goes up, I will be a little bit more than half-way through this trip. I’ve got to start planning trips to Tokyo and other places a bit more seriously in the time that remains so I can get the most out of my time here. Expect an entire post dedicated to Tokyo in the coming weeks, as well as possibly Kyoto, Hiroshima, or any other places this journey takes me.