First and foremost, I am no Japanese, neither speak any of the language nor having anything related to Japan. I only have a 50-50 compatibility with Japanese language (meaning that I may or may not be able to master the language in a relatively short time). However there is not really a need for me to master the language other than me having high interests in Japanese entertainment materials such as anime, manga (including light novels), games (including eroge and visual novels) and Japanese music.
My involvement with Japan started when I was still a few weeks old. Back then (in early 80′s) the Malay-dubbed 30-minute Japanese dramas was a popular thing together with Malay-dubbed kids show like Ultraman. That, added with my face “looked like a Japanese” granted me a nickname “Hachi Yokomura” (complete with surname) by my naughty uncles and that name continued to be in use until today.
I can’t really remember my real first experience with anime but the Malay-dubbed Macross and Mospeada were among my firsts. Back then I didn’t really bother to watch western cartoon but I’d watch anime regardless in what language they are, even if that means reading the subtitle (I’m lucky that I can read since I was 4). If only anime was aired in Japanese language back then I might have mastered the language today because of my passion.
After I graduated from elementary school, under a scholarship I was able to go to a newly established elite private school (on top of that it was boarding school too), thanks to my good grades. Despite its damn restrictive rules, I really excited because it was among a very few schools here that teaches Japanese language formally. However it was outside of school curriculum and the student would have to pay separate tuition fee for it.
The tuition fee for the Japanese language course was quite on the high side for me. My scholarship only covers 75% of my school expenses so I didn’t really have money to afford the tuition. However due to the lack of interested student the Japanese language course was discontinued after 2 years.
When I was in high school the I started to see the chance ofbeing exposed to Japanese language again, thanks to the J-drama and J-pop boom in the late 90′s. The boom also started the anime boom and the trend continues until the early millennium until it swallowed by the annoying Korean entertainment invasion. If only the ‘boom’ was longer I might already be able to speak Japanese now.
Now with most people around me know more about Korean entertainment than Japanese I have nobody to talk about it other than the internet. Although many learning materials are available for free or really affordable now (like the Android app JA Sensei and the Moekana cards by dannychoo.com) I fear that I’m no longer be able to learn new language. After all I took more than 20 years to learn informal English (reading/writing only) so I can’t imagine how many more years I’d take to master the Japanese language.
So did I able to pick some Japanese from watching anime? I’d be lying if I say I don’t. At least I know the Japanese terms for a number of things. At one point in my life I even managed to read Katakana and Hiragana texts with 50% accuracy (reading only, without knowing the meaning). At that time my uncle was taking Japanese classes sponsored by the Japanese company where he worked at so I got to read the books he used in the class. Too bad he quit his job there after one year taking the class and moved to other company so that’s where my learning ended as well.
Now do I still have the chance? Next year I’ll turn 30. I think what I really need right now is not the chance (it’s always there after all) but the courage to learn something new.