It’s Monday morning here in Sendai. We spent the weekend in Sendai and we’re going back to Tome soon for three final days of volunteer work. We’ve met so many old friends during the past two days which added up to about 12+ hours of conversing in Japanese. It was wonderful to talk about people’s experiences during the past few months, and we spoke with a friend of mine whose wife’s 65-year old cousin was killed by the tsunami. Everyone has a fascinating story to share, and I wish I would have written down what we’ve been hearing. It’s been extremely moving to talk to people about where they were when the earthquake hit on 3/11 and what happened in the aftermath.

It’s become very clear on this trip to Japan I am nowhere near Matthias’ level of Japanese in terms of conversation ability. When I can’t say something, I just resort to English and Matthias never does that – he always tries to get out what he wants to say in Japanese and lets people fix his mistakes. Everyone compliments him on his Japanese ability and I am thankful for that. Usually they say, “Matthias, your Japanese is really excellent! It’s hard to believe how well you can express yourself so naturally. And Danielle, you speak well, too, but wow, Matthias is amazing!” I’m hardly jealous, but very thankful for Matthias. I have sooooo far to go with Japanese; perhaps if I am here for another 5 years I’ll really be able to speak more fluently. Matthias is truly a fluent speaker of Japanese and I am just in awe of his God-given gifts with languages and how he can chat on and on with no problem at all. At this point, I am happy to listen to Japanese for hours but I don’t say a whole lot in comparison with Matthias. The good thing is, these days I can understand about 80% of what people say and guess at the other 20% that I don’t know. Matthias is often very surprised at what I don’t know in Japanese. The other day, I didn’t know the word for “zero.” I knew you could say “maru,” or circle, but I had never heard “rei,” another word for zero.

meeting old friends

with a former English student and his family (his wife, on the right, lost her cousin in the tsunami)

And then there’s German. We’re not speaking German at all, so I hope I don’t forget all my German. However, I’m not too worried about it, because I think it’s locked in a part of my brain and will come back to me quickly when we’re in Germany again.

If I am honest and humble, I know that languages haven’t come easily to me, like Matthias, but mainly through a lot of hard work and rote memorization. Also, I am not fluent in any language, but because my listening comprehension in Japanese and Spanish is at around 80%+ I can fudge my way through many difficult conversations since I can understand most of what is being said to me. Learning languages is hard work, but I’m thankful I’ve made it this far!

I just finished an awesome book about raising bilingual kids and I recommend it:

 7 Steps to Raising a Bilingual Child by Naomi Steiner, MD
Just click on the link to learn more.

Even though we don’t have kids yet, I though it was helpful to read and plan ahead so we raise kids who can speak three or more languages fluently!