So I have finally relearned the first Japanese alphabet, hiragana. It's the baby letters, basically, only man, there are a ton of them. 50, actually, pretty much double the English alphabet, and this is only the first set of symbols I need to learn. I now have to go on to learning katakana, the next set, which has just as many. What's most difficult about all this is the amazing capacity the symbols have of looking like one another. "Ne" and "re", at first glance are almost the same. Same thing with "so" and "ro". My favorite symbol is for "yu" though, because it is fun to draw, and it's just pretty. If I ever got a tattoo, I might just get the symbol for "yu", which is just a sound, of course, but I like the way it looks.
I have a college level Japanese textbook, and have been reading through the conversations in the book that are all printed out in hiragana on one side of the page, and in phonetics and english on the other side of the page. I cover the english side up and make myself stumble through the dialogue. Suddenly I start having these very primal memories of learning English, while I'm looking at a symbol and saying, "Mi", then the next, "chi", then "ko", Mi-chi-ko, Michiko. Okay, that word's done. Michiko then of course goes on to say something to Ms. Yamaguchi. Good, Chris. I've learned to identify Michiko's name by heart now. heheh. Sigh. I really do feel like a kid watching the Electric Company or Sesame Street, whichever one had the sessions where the two or three headed monster, I forget how many heads, would put together the syllables of a word, the syllables moving across the bottom of the screen, until they all met in the middle and the whole word was made. This is a horribly humbling exercise.
Oh well, on to Katakana now. I remember I learned it fairly quickly in high school, so I hope I do so again, since I leave in less than a month and a half. And of course, all I'm learning is recognition of the symbols so I can read signs etc. when I'm there. If I had to sit down and someone instructed me to draw a variety of the symbols, I probably would have a difficult time doing recall from the opposite direction. I'll have to practice that while I'm in Japan, most likely. For now I'll have to settle for recognition.