メリークリスマス！Frohe Weihnachten! ¡Feliz Navidad! Merry Christmas!
So, what’s new with us? Where should we begin?
Last week, we enjoyed a visit from our dear friend, Aurelién, who came from Paris just to see us. We met in Nagoya, Japan and we’ve kept in touch since I left Japan thanks to Skype and Facebook. We showed him around the Berlin, and although it is an extremely frigid time of year, he seemed to enjoy his time with us. He took a ton of photos with his fancy camera which I cannot wait to see. We introduced him to our sweet Japanese friends, and we had an okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake) party last Saturday night; after a fantastic meal, we talked for hours, played some goofy games, and enjoyed Godiva chocolates and ice cream for dessert.
Aurelién enjoying his Christmas wine, Japanese okonomiyaki feast
Matthias took this photo of Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor)
HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS: We arrived in southern Germany last night, and I was so thankful to see that my German has improved a wee bit. The last time I was here was in September, I couldn’t understand much of what my father-in-law said. When he drove us home from the airport, I was thrilled to discover I could understand the gist of the conversation and even follow along with what he and Matthias were discussing.
LANGUAGE STUDY: I must admit, I’m starting to find it straining to be speaking three languages on a regular basis, not to mention setting time aside for studying both German and Japanese, plus working, cooking, cleaning, volunteering, etc. If Matthias spoke Spanish, we’d be juggling four languages so it could be even crazier. It would be easier to focus on just two, but such is our crazy international life! When we are volunteering at the cafe, at church, and I am in German class I speak only German (and it’s getting easier and easier to speak each week). When we hang out with Japanese friends, of course we speak Japanese for hours on end. Matthias and I speak a lot of Japanese when we’re alone in order to maintain it, and nowadays he’s starting to speak more German with me if I bug him enough to do it.
A note about my hubby: Matthias has an extraordinary God-given gift with languages. He speaks English, French, and Japanese although he isn’t really into French at all. He didn’t have to work very hard to learn any language, and his English is often better than mine. He also has almost perfect pronunciation which can be amusing when German people find out he’s not American or vice versa. His Japanese level is a rather big step above mine, and often when I simply cannot explain a difficult concept or narrate a story, I have to rely on him to help me. I think that God has also given me a talent for languages, but unlike Matthias, I have had to devote hundreds, perhaps thousands of hours sitting at a desk, reading, writing, and reviewing Japanese, not to mention 3-5 hours of private lessons per week for around six years. In other words, languages don’t come easily to me, but I work very hard. And my dear husband’s Japanese is still WAY better than me even though he’s never gone to a school or had more than a year’s worth of private lessons. Go figure! At any rate, he keeps me humble and I am thankful that we both share such a great passion for the Japanese and their language!
Ah, Japanese. I am truly in love with the language, and no matter how difficult it may seem, no matter what grammatical nightmare is set before my eyes it doesn’t freak me out anymore. It’s almost like being given a puzzle I cannot wait to solve. Plus, I have patience to hang in there so that 5,10, and 15 years down the road, my Japanese will be even better than it is now. God has given me such a love for the people that learning the language in order to better communicate with them is worth just about any amount of hard work. Anyone out there learning a language or about to start? It’s worth it – don’t give up!
Naturally, I am more in love with the Japanese than their language. Last night we had to say goodbye to Mana and Kana, our adorable Japanese friends. After dinner, they went with us to Tegel Airport and we said a tearful farewell. We hope and pray we will meet them in Japan again. What beautiful, charming girls!