Lockdown Diary - From Halifax to Hokkaido
We chatted with Jayne from our shoe department who's been learning Japanese during lockdown
I've always been fascinated with the ancient culture and traditions of Japan, which are so different from the West. I also love the beautiful calligraphy and minimalist interiors - the Japanese aesthetic in general. Since discovering Japanese stationery recently, (I'm a stationery geek and there's nothing quite like their stationery!), I've found that the products come with Japanese instructions. So, faced with a lot of time on my hands during a third lockdown, I set myself the challenge of learning to read Japanese!
What is the most difficult part of learning the language?
Japanese is made up of three alphabets - yes, three! Unlike a lot of other foreign languages that use the Roman alphabet (a, b, c, etc), the Japanese language uses characters derived from ancient Chinese characters, some of which are 'pictures' that represent whole words and others that represent syllables. The alphabets are called hiragana, katakana and kanji. There are actually over 2000 kanji - even some native Japanese speakers don't know them all! It's such an interesting language though and I'm learning quite a lot about Japanese culture too, as it’s bound into the language.
Have you ever been to Japan?
Not yet, but I hope to visit someday, perhaps during the famous sakura season when the beautiful pink cherry blossoms are in bloom across the country. I'd also love to visit the ancient city of Kyoto, famous for its Shinto shrines, traditional wooden houses and the geisha in their colourful kimonos. I like the idea of surprising the locals by speaking to them in Japanese!
How are you learning it?
Due to lockdown, I am mainly learning online. There is actually so much free content on YouTube - I'm sure you could learn pretty much any new skill on there! I've borrowed a number of books from the library along with CDs to help with pronunciation. It's difficult to practice Japanese when the likelihood of bumping into a native Japanese speaker on the streets of England is close to zero! But there are so many resources online - apps, dictionaries, videos and one-on-one language lessons to connect you up with teachers all around the world. It's brilliant! So, if you've always wanted to learn a new language, I encourage you to go for it. These days, it's amazing what you can learn, and where you can go, from the safety of your sofa!
Ganbatte! (Good luck!)