A statement of intent

united-kingdomI find it quite hard to believe that’s suddenly May already. I must have expressed this before, but there’s a certain amount of stagnation involved in a global pandemic in my experience. Or perhaps ‘stasis’ would be a better word that doesn’t make me sound like a load of old pond water. Everything feels like it’s standing still, and the first of each month comes as a bit of a rude awakening to the fact that time is still steadily marching on, just as it always has done. And presumably always will. As with previous posts, there’s been an undeniable dearth of activity on my part over the past fourteen months, so I struggled a little with what I was going to write – but as traditionally, May is the month in which I post twice (one regular post and a Eurovision write-up the day after the final of the contest), I thought you would all appreciate a short update, rather than nothing at all. Besides, it would pain me deeply to break a streak that’s been going for so long.

So, recently I’ve thrown myself into a couple of projects – the greatest of these undertakings is Japanese. With some support from my boss, I’ve decided to take the JLPT (Japanese-Language Proficiency Test) N5 exam next summer, and as my knowledge of Japanese is not just basic but incredibly scattered and disorganised, I’ve been trying to find a way to formalise my grammar learning. And based on some recommendations from Twitter and YouTube, I’ve found something that works very well for me, called Skärmavbild 2021-05-01 kl. 19.00.26Bunpro (文プロ, bunpro.jp, not to be confused with Bunpo, which I gather is another website used by learners of Japanese). It’s got that sort of gamified Duolingo sort of vibe, but the emphasis here is on teaching structures of grammar, rather than vocabulary or other components of a language. It’s thrown any number of kanji at me that I don’t recognise, but it hardly matters because that’s not what I’m focusing on. And if I pick up one or two here and there as I go, then that’s all to the good. As you can see on my progress summary to the right, it’s only been a few days but I’m doing fairly well. I love the fact that the grammatical structures are grouped according to JLPT level so you can make sure your studying is targeted to the level you’re going for – and if you should become so comfortable with N5 that you start to creep into N4, then it will surely feel more comfortable to go into the exam with an even deeper knowledge of the language than you had intended when you started studying. I’ll admit that kanji (and sometimes katakana) are a bit of a blind spot, but I’ve got plenty of time to learn the necessary 100 (I think?) kanji required for N5 over the next year or so, and katakana will no doubt come with practice.

But, all of that said… I think those of you who have been reading my updates for any length of time will know what’s coming… I’m not focusing on just Japanese, even though I probably should be. I’m easily distracted, so I thought it might be a good idea to have a secondary… palate cleanser language, if that makes any sense. My progress will doubtless be slower, as I’ll only be focusing on it when I’m full to the gills of Japanese, but even a little progress is some progress! So with the idea in mind of focusing on just one ‘relief language’, I’ve chosen Lithuanian.10083ECE-8776-445C-B6B7-ED6227717C33 ‘But why Lithuanian?’ you may be forgiven for wondering. Honestly, I wish I had a more concrete answer to give you. To misquote Marge Simpson, ‘I just think it’s neat’. It’s one of those languages I’ve come back to year on year, and I’d love to have a more solid grounding in it than I’ve been able to build up over the past few years of occasional dabbling. I suppose we’ll see, won’t we? I think part of the reason I’m writing this post is to make myself somewhat accountable – although obviously my mental capacity hasn’t been the best it’s ever been while living through this whole Covid-19 situation, I think there’s definitely a slightly cynical part of me that’s been using it as an excuse to be lazy… which is something that comes very naturally to me, so much so that I haven’t even noticed that I’ve been doing it. So that stops now. At least a little bit of productivity every day, even if it’s only 15 minutes. And a little more on the weekends if I can manage to scrape together the willpower. Again, let’s see how long that lasts, shall we?

I’m hoping to provide some sort of progress update later in the year (if indeed there is any progress to report), but I’ve been working on next month’s post for a while so hopefully you’ll enjoy that when it finally comes… but that’s not the last you’ll hear from me this month. As you no doubt know, the Eurovision Song Contest is taking place (thank whichever deity is currently on duty) later this month so you’ll see my traditional write-up appearing in your WordPress Reader feed on the day after. As always, you can find me on Twitter and Instagram (I’m @sprakskatan on both), so feel free to get in touch with advice or words of encouragement (a cheerful がんばって is always welcome at any time of year), or even if you want to share your own goals for the next few months! As always, thanks for reading, and I’ll see you at the end of the month.

– J.

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