So this week I received my pass mark for the JLPT3, which is the mid level of the government run Japanese Language Proficiency Test. This is the exam that I failed last spring, so I`m very happy to have achieved it this time. I doubt I will ever need the qualification, but of course its nice to have an official recognition of my progress, although I think that, even without it, I would have been able to recognize it myself. Recently I have been so enjoying speaking Japanese (badly of course) that the pleasure I am now experiencing more then makes up for the difficulty I was going through last year, when I compared (in a post from that time) every day at school to having my teeth pulled one by one.
Thinking over this experience I know I have learned a awful lot that will have a good effect on all areas of my life. I`m currently writing my graduation speech, in Japanese, which I will be presenting to mark the end of this absolutely incredible scholarship, and so have been thinking a lot about what Ive gained, and what I can take forward. All the lessons I learned are things I `knew` before, but knowing something because you’ve been told it, and really experiencing and learning it for yourself is a very different thing, or so it seems to me.
Learning Japanese was, without any doubt, the hardest thing I have ever done. Last Christmas, after my first term, there was a large part of myself that firmly believed that I was incapable of doing so. I was shocked, disgusted at myself, why couldn’t I learn as fast as everyone else? Why was the studying I did yielding so little results? What was wrong with me?! I was sad, and I was angry at myself. And of course this was a fantastic self fulfilling prophecy, where I spent vast amounts of time and energy on this useless thought process, I clammed up during conversation lessons, to embarrassed and angry to speak. I made very few, well I made no, lasting friends at school with whom I could have enjoyed practicing with.
It wasn’t that I didn’t know I was doing it, I did, and I tried to stop thinking the negative thoughts and get on with enjoying the process. This has been a prefect time to be learning more about mindfulness, and, just as in my Japanese, whilst I still have a long, long way to go, I know I have made progress. Learning to begin to recognize negative thought spirals, is the first step towards not allowing them to take me so swiftly away from the current reality I am in, into a fantasy created by myself.
I learned that I though I could not stop the negative thoughts completely, that’s all they were, thoughts. I was wrong. It was not a fact that I couldn’t learn Japanese, it was just an idea that existed in my head. I could and have learnt to speak Japanese, full of mistakes, sometimes to the point of incomprehensibility, it may be, but I can chat away with a friend at a bar, or stumblingly explain an idea in a language that is not English. I don’t think all you lucky people brought up with two of more languages can quite comprehend how unbelievably magical I still find this.
I learned that you can sometimes give something your full attention, try your very hardest, and still not be very good at it. I know I will be more patient with people in the future.
I learned that people are different. The way you learn, the speed, the effective techniques, the things that are easy and the things that stop you dead in your tracks, are wildly different, so comparing yourself is pointless, though it is also perhaps inevitable.
I learned that the difficulty and unpleasantness of working on something you are bad at, is directly matched, is in fact far surpassed, by the pleasure you will experience on achieving it.
I learned that no matter how hard something is, if you keep going you will improve, and what ever level you reach is 100% further then you would have got if you had given up.