Posted: Monday 6th March 2023 in Summit.


Japanese isn’t English.

This is obvious to anybody even casually aware of both languages. They’re different languages from opposite sides of the world that have almost no shared history or building blocks. English uses 26 letters derived from the Latin alphabet while Japanese uses a mix of four separate character sets, of which Kanji alone has thousands.

Yet here I am, trying to learn it. 英語です。私の日本語は完全です。 Okay, well, maybe my Japanese isn’t perfect but it’s better than it was when I started my Experience for Life (E4L) at the end of last year.

Why Japanese?

I have a long term dream of being able to read various classic works of literature in their native tongues. Any work will lose detail, connotation or flow in translation and I hope to be able to read the raw versions of these texts as their authors intended. One day, I hope that I will have read the Illiad and the Odyssey in the original Greek, dactylic hexameter and all along with the four great classical novels of China; Journey to the West, The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, The Water Margin and Dream of the Red Chamber.

The astute among you will notice that neither of those languages are Japanese, so what great works am I hoping to gain insight into through a working knowledge of 日本語? Well… I also want to be able to watch and understand anime without subtitles. So sue me.

Anyway, before I started my experience for life I’d been working through early Duolingo lessons but they were a bit wanting. It’s hard to figure out what you’re doing wrong when you’re only told that the answer was wrong and what the correct answer is when dealing with a language as alien as Japanese to a native English speaker. This stumbling block is why I decided to use my E4L to enhance my solo efforts in understanding. I used a group called Language trainers online and was matched up with 井上先生 (Inoue-Sensei) for ten hours of getting corrected when I inevitably missed a particle. Getting the instant feedback from a human being and being able to ask questions was invaluable in getting some of the aspects of the language I’d been struggling with understood.

How I’ve used Experience for Life in the past

In the past I’ve used my experience for live for voice coaching through Susannah Thompson. As a trans woman cursed with a deep, manly voice, being able to get support for how to accommodate the hand I was dealt with at birth through experience for life was incredibly useful.

Before that I had never taken advantage of the E4L benefit at Summit, despite this being my tenth year here. I was always scared that there would be a lot of hoops to jump through in getting it signed off but that truly isn’t the case. If there’s something you want to learn, find somewhere that will support you and fill in the form. Both times for me it’s helped me do something that I would never have gone ahead with if I’d been footing the entire bill and, especially with the voice training last year, it’s actively made my life better to have taken the step to using my E4L budget.

Now go forth and learn!

ヲフマイア (Maia Wooff)

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