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Texas ISD School Guide
Texas ISD School Guide

Travel, Teach, Live in Japan

Turning Japanese
By:Andrew Bleak

The impossible becomes mundane, and taboo topics become commonplace. That was my initial reaction to the Japanese culture of anime. Most of their stories bordered from the impossible to the ridiculous, unlike anything I have ever watched. I mean, come on, I have never seen eyes so exaggerated, reactions too theatrical, and characters too complex I had to wonder if they were schizophrenic or possibly high on something. Their plots were unbelievable too. From a guy transforming into a buxom girl when doused with cold water to an alien group of frogs out to conquer the planet while looking like a Sanrio stuff toy. Laws of gravity are disregarded as characters are able to fall from great heights in slow motion.

I remember the first Japanese anime with English subtitles I ever watched. It was given to me by a friend who just returned from his vacation in Tokyo. It was about a samurai vagabond who carried problems the size of a ten-wheeler truck on his shoulders. Then, I didn't know how, but I was soon watching Naruto, an anime about a hyperactive young ninja's journey to power and adulthood, who screamed too often for his tonsils to still be functioning if he existed in real life. Yes, one thing led to another, and soon enough, I was hooked. Probably because of the complexities of Japanese anime that is evident in their twisting plots and multi-dimensional characters who almost always seem to be a totally different personality from what you originally think them to be.

The thing about languages is that even if they are tricky, it's not impossible to learn. All you need to do is use it with every opportunity you have, and repeat it. The human brain is an amazing tool, and what is even more amazing is that we only use a portion of it. Imagine what we can be capable of if we use even half of its capacity to store information and different languages. For people who think that it's a fruitless cause, may I remind you that when we were still cute tots, we had to learn how to speak from scratch. Whether we liked it or not, we listened to dear old mom and dad as they cooed, first in incomprehensible baby talk to 'grown-up speak'. We listened to those nursery rhymes over and over the whole day and fairy tales during the night until we were able to recite them from memory. We were like sponges, absorbing everything we can get our hands on. So why not learn now instead of leaving your brain to rot?

Watching animes enabled me slowly to comprehend Nihongo. Okay, so my knowledge is basic, so don't talk to me in Nihongo unless you want me to make a fool of myself. But I'm still darn proud to know a few words and phrases, and that's just by watching an episode for about 5 times. By reading the English subtitles, wrong grammar withstanding (just edit it mentally), I found myself slowly understanding the words. For instance, to say "good morning" in Nihongo is to say Ohayo (think OHIO, but stress on the end of each syllable). If greeting an older or superior person, boss or teacher, say Ohayo Gozaimasu. "Thank you" is Arigatou/*Arigatou Gozaimasu*, or as English-speaking Japanese characters would say, 'Sankyu'. And of course, I also learned really good cuss words! A really good thing that came out of it was that I had the freedom to scream what I want in Nihongo at home without my mom walloping me for saying inappropriate words. FYI, she only knows 'Bansai!'

Of course, I still plan to take up Nihongo formally. I plan to enroll in a center where a Japanese teacher or sensei can help me with my studies. Maybe I should get some audio tapes on how to speak Nihongo as well. Someday I just might go to Japan, just to test everything that I've learned (although I will arm myself with a dictionary and my sensei's cellphone number on speed dial), and foray into shops to look for more of my favorite anime titles to indulge myself into.

Andrew Bleak

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