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Learning Spanish in Japan

This may sound crazy but ever since I began learning Japanese, I’ve been comparing it to Spanish. After studying Spanish for a few years in highschool and a few semesters in undergrad, I feel like I get the basics. I can hold a remedial conversation with you in Spanish. I comprehend far more than I can communicate. I tell people that I can speak spanglish. I’ll start a sentence in spanish and fill in the holes in my vocabulary with the English equivalent.

I’d placed learning Spanish on a shelf in my mind. Sometimes I take it down when I feel inspired but it mostly just sits there collecting dust. That was, until I started learning Japanese. Whenever I hit a wall or am confused by something in Japanese, my default mode is “I can say that easily in Spanish”. Does that happen to anyone else?

I recently met and have weekly lunches with the Spanish teacher here at my high school. I mentioned that I would like to sit in on her classes during my preps. Today was that day. During 3rd period (10:30-11:20) I sat in on the 3rd grade (senior) Spanish class. They were learning Imperatives. And while I understood most of it, I will admit there were far more vocabulary words that I didn’t know. However, the basics or the patterns were there. Habla, hable, hablad, hablen, no hables, no hable, no hableis, no hablen. I get that. It was comforting to know something, anything dealing with languages, outside of English.

I understood far more when I sat in on the 2nd grade (junior) Spanish class. The bonus is that both teachers speak basic Japanese to explain things that are difficult for students to grasp in Spanish. Which means that I’m learning both Japanese and Spanish simultaneously! In the 2nd grade class, they were learning the verb “hay” (there are). Each student would read a line of the model conversation. Then the teacher would ask them how much there were and the students would respond by saying “takusan no” and the number/item. I heard this so many times that I asked the teacher what it meant. I learned that it means “many” in japanese. I can say “takusan no hon” (a lot of books).

I’m looking forward to learning more Spanish.

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