Learning Japanese

I know I haven’t mentioned it in a while, but I love manga.

Maybe that’s an understatement. I LOVE MANGA.

Why? I don’t know.

I do know I love how wild and crazy some of the ideas are…and they work. O_O Right now, I’m reading volume 3 of Shinobi Life, a story about a time traveling ninja and an oppressed rich girl who are being hunted by another time-traveling ninja in the employ of a guy whose father thinks the oppressed rich girl might be able to tell the future. It’s romantic, funny, and a blast to read, with surprising moments of depth.

And then there’s Tramps Like Us, about a cool-as-ice reporter who takes in a beautiful, homeless young man/dancer she finds in a box outside her apartment building. It works because it shows her struggle between being true to herself and trying to be more like the perfect Japanese girlfriend. It also works because the dancer she finds is more than he appears and not in a crazy way.

Or, to end this trifecta, how about Attack on Titan? Naked giants eating humans just…because. And humans all live inside multi-walled city with maneuvering gear that’s so awesome I think I’ll be able to keep reading just to find out more about the gear itself. It works for me (for now) because this series seems to be asking the question, “At what point does the soldier become a monster?”

Manga inspires me in ways I don’t usually get from books.

It’s because of manga that I began this journey I’m currently on, namely, throwing out a lot of the “rules” I was given when I first started writing. It’s because of manga that a new idea I have is being considered at all, instead of being neatly hacked and slashed and put into genre boxes.

But there’s only so far I can go with an English translation. I’ve known this since I was in high school and we were asked, as part of UIL, to critique Tartuffe by Moliere.

Seriously? If he truly is the French Shakespeare, then working with anything other than the original language is a waste of time, in my opinion. Shakespeare had puns and double-meanings, subtleties that may only come up on English. The general meaning might come through, but if there’s a subtle twist, it could, in the translation, only sound confusing.

Not to mention, there are series I want to read that haven’t been translated yet.

So, I’m trying to learn the language. I’m not nearly at a point where I feel comfortable saying anything lengthy, but I’ve already found some good things coming out of it.

  1. It’s been helping me create languages for my fantasy and sci-fi stories.
  2. It’s helped me view how culture influences language and vice versa (e.g. the concept of “missing” someone/thing, “I miss my friends,” “I miss New York,” doesn’t exist in Japanese because wishing you had something other than what you have is frowned on…if I understand it correctly.)
  3. It’s helped me become more aware of the intricacies of English.
  4. I’m getting to a point where I can pick out small bits of vocabulary from actual Japanese I see online and that makes me happier than I could have ever imagined.
  5. It’s given me a greater appreciation of Japan as a whole: people, country, myths, culture, etc.
  6. Finally, it’s made me aware of how much geography and culture intertwine. Didn’t expect that from learning a language, but there it is.

I guess you can already see how some of this is going to improve my writing.


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