I am starting to learn Japanese, not for fluency, but for travel.

Within the last few months, I decided that I am finally going to get some international travel under my belt. I’m going to save my money, and I’m going to Japan. The actual trip probably won’t happen until next year, but it’s going to happen, and I’ve already made good progress in saving up for the trip. Why Japan? Mostly because Thomas, my friend and fellow Babelhut.com writer, lives there with his wife and child. What better way to travel internationally than to get someone you know to show you around?

Because of this decision, my girlfriend and I have decided to start learning Japanese. Spanish is still my primary language of study, and that won’t change, so we plan to only study Japanese for one hour a week. We don’t intend to become fluent speakers, we just want to be able to get around. We just started this and have only studied twice now, but so far we have been having fun.

We are focusing mostly on learning to communicate verbally, and in our first sesssion we sampled both Carl Kenner’s free Japanese audio course, and the Michel Thomas Method Japanese for Beginners. Carl Kenner’s course teaches writing along with speaking, while the Michel Thomas course is focused entirely on speaking. We found that Carl Kenner moved a little to quickly for us to keep up, and decided to stick with the Michel Thomas course for now.

I was surprised at just how much fun learning a brand new language together with my girlfriend is. We both laugh at our silly mistakes, while simultaneously being very encouraging to each other. During our second session, we needed to say “kore o kudasai, ” which means something like “please may I have this?” My girlfriend couldn’t remember how to say it, so I held up a piece of mail and said “correo” which in Spanish means “mail”, but sounds very similar to the Japanese “kore o.” This got a laugh out of her and now she remembers that “kore” means “this” in Japanese.

I hope we continue to have this much fun with Japanese, because we are both looking forward to our next Japanese session!

One last thing. I know it’s been very quiet around here. Thomas and I have been working on something big, and soon we’ll be able to tell you all about it! I’m actually very excited about this, but I can’t say more yet! Stay tuned…

Like this post? Give me the Thumbs Up!

10 Comment(s)

  1. Yes, we always remember the silly things much better than the usual ones. Especially, when we have to remember something totally new. Your method by the way gives the claim that each language you know makes it easier to learn another language a totally new meaning ;)

    Thanks for the first link by the way. In case you do not know, you might also like JapanesePod101 [1]. They provide some free mp3-files (basic) and additional commercial information.

    I guess all other websites I use are rather focused on written Japanese, except maybe smart.fm for vocabulary which includes pronunciation examples.

    [1] http://tinyurl.com/ykxe673

    Stefan Koch | Mar 11, 2010 | Reply

  2. Saving enough money for traveling is easier with lower expenses. My plan for this year’s big language-related trip is to extensively use couchsurfing.org, and do a lot of bicycle touring while camping for free wherever I can. That said, even once I pick a spot to settle down in and rent an apartment, most cities have cheaper rent than my home town of Vancouver, so I guess cheapness is a matter of perspective.

    Even staying in hostels every night for a month would be more than twice as expensive as renting my own room for a month, so if you’re doing more than just a really short trip, consider renting a place.

    doviende | Mar 12, 2010 | Reply

  3. @Stefan: Thanks for the link. I expect that if we have enough time, we will learn some of the writing, but since our goal is to learn enough for travel, speaking and listening will be more important.

    @doviende: I love the idea of couchsurfing or even renting a cheap place for a month, but I won’t be able to spend that much time away. It seems ironic to me that it’s actually going to cost more for a short stay than it would if I were able to be more nomadic. I’ve accepted that for now though. I’ve yet to leave the United States so this trip is a big first step for me.

    Peter | Mar 12, 2010 | Reply

  4. Hi there! You could also learn Japanese with manga. In Barcelona, these books are really famous, I think they’ve been translated into English, too.

    Marta | Mar 21, 2010 | Reply

  5. Is it possible to learn Japanese just for travels? My experience as a teacher is that you have to build a language from the beginning. It´s nice to know phrases but what do you do when they answer you fast as a machine gun?
    But I think your blog is an interesting blog! I´m Swedish myself but I run a Spanish podcast, don Gerardo de Suecia on this address:
    http://turbeng.wordpress.com/ I have English and Swedish translations oof many episodes.
    Bienvenidos, Welcome, Välkommen!

    Gert Forsström | May 14, 2010 | Reply

  6. When we married five years ago, someone gave my husband and me this piece of advice: find a hobby or project that neither of you know how to do and learn it together. That way, both partners are completely equal and pursuing something new together. (We did gardening–my monolingual engineer hubby would not have enjoyed learning a language!)

    Sarah | May 19, 2010 | Reply

  7. You have an exciting trip ahead of you in Japan. I have wanted to go there for a long time. It is quite admirable that you are tackling an Asian language in addition to working on your Spanish. It is a bold step to take on Japanese or Chinese when one has only been previously exposed to purely alphabetic languages. I truly enjoyed the tiny bit of instruction I had in Chinese and would like to continue. This is an inspirational article. Thanks and best of luck.

    Mike | Jun 9, 2010 | Reply

  8. “During our second session, we needed to say “kore o kudasai, ” which means something like “please may I have this?” My girlfriend couldn’t remember how to say it, so I held up a piece of mail and said “correo” which in Spanish means “mail”, but sounds very similar to the Japanese “kore o.” This got a laugh out of her and now she remembers that “kore” means “this” in Japanese.”

    > I came across this language learning software once, which uses words in English to teach words in another language. It’s pretty much the same with what you did. For example, the word “mallo” means BAD in Spanish. The software would ask you to imagine a bad marshMALLOw, and that would allow you to associate the words. It’s really effective.

    espanol mi amor | Jun 29, 2010 | Reply

  9. That’s a good thing. It’s nice to learn other language other than your native language. Good luck!

    Karl | Sep 20, 2010 | Reply

  10. Studying it with your girlfriend is a good way to build accountability as well. Just make sure you guys don’t start slipping, because it’d be easier to justify not studying if the other one isn’t- especially if you’re limiting it to only 1 hour per week.

    I know this post was written awhile ago, but has much progress been made? Or have you already gone to Japan?

    Alex Moen | Dec 19, 2011 | Reply

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.