When it comes to learning languages, I am afraid I have been disheartened lately in my attempts at learning Japanese. Despite living in Tokyo for nearly 3 years (as of November 11), I still find myself inept in the language. For a while I had virtually given up -- which was sad, given my initially high hopes at becoming a master of Japanese (and other languages beyond that!) I guess I was just being too hard on myself. This week, out of nowhere, I discovered my comprehension and speaking skills had suddenly advanced, as if I had taken a great leap forward. I have heard that this pattern of long periods of plateauing, followed by rapid bursts of progress, is a familiar one to students of foreign languages.
But whatever -- while English is enough to get you by in most parts of the world, I would love to speak a language like Japanese if only to watch Japanese movies and TV shows, and understand them. It would be cool! I took a step forward in this direction this week.
For the first time ever, and only because I was bored, I was able to watch an entire Japanese movie from beginning to end -- 90 minutes worth, with no English translation. And although I missed a lot of it, I still understood enough to keep me interested. It was like peering through a porthole into a hidden and mysterious world -- for a brief time at least, the walls of culture were rent asunder!
It happened on
Channel Neco, one of the cable stations in Japan. This is what I understood, and it will give you an insight of the typical made-for-TV Japanese movie of the early 21st century:
A salaryman (office worker) has had a shitty day at work, and this is all compounded when he finds it is raining as he exits his local train station on his way home. (Such a portrait of modern Japan: the railway station is the heart of modern Japanese life, and everybody here could emphasize with the predicament of being caught in the rain without an umbrella.)
Anyway, this is how it happened:
The salaryman burst out of the train station on a dark and rainy night, and he didn't bear an umbrella.
Luckily there was a guardian angel hovering in the wings -- make that read an evil kimono-clad witch! She hurried across to help him, an Asian Good Samaritan in geta shoes. She offered him a berth under her umbrella. Poor, desperate him, he took the bait. One step at a time, his world collapsed.
(For more takes on the Great Deception, click here...)
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