Saturday, September 11, 2010

Learning your third language...

It doesn't occur to me all to often that Japanese is actually my third language. Though my skills are lacking in my second, Spanish; it's always weird to think I am on my way towards a third. These languages do battle inside my head for dominance. And usually when I speak, one slips out in a country where few people understand it.

I have found myself on many occasions reverting to Spanish. For the longest time, I didn't know how to say the Japanese equivalent of the phrase: "How do you say ____ in Japanese" (which is a handy phrase if you are wanting to learn a new word). Usually what came out of my mouth was "Come se deci _____ en Japonese?". And yes, I spoke this phrase to Japanese people. The reaction I got on most occasions was a blank stare and a slight tilt of the head. It was quickly followed up with "Nani?" (what).

Of course, this isn't the only phrase or words I've used. I have found my self mixing all three languages on occasions in one bizarre phrase that makes only sense to me or someone who can also speak, all three language. For example, I have said "ichi mas please" (Japanese: one/Spanish: more / Eng: Please) making for an incoherent sentence.

What I have found out though that knowing some Spanish has aided me in learning Japanese. Mostly with regards to pronunciation. With Spanish, there is the "double r" which a lot of people learning Spanish, have trouble with. In Japanese, there is no 'r' or 'l' sound, its kind of a combination of the two. And to me, that sound, is produced similarly with the Spanish "double r". One word that was easy to remember was the word 'pan' in Japanese. It means bread. Guess what the word for bread is in Spanish? Exactly the same. The only other word I have came across that seems similar is the Japanese word for 'look' which is 'miru'. In Spanish, the word for look is 'mira' or 'miro' for the female and male forms.

Knowing these strange correlations makes me want to study Spanish a little more. It might be a bad idea at the moment. Then I will have a huge battle inside my head for language champion.

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