I am still trying to maintain my Japanese, even though I have no opportunities to speak it or even hear people speaking it, unless I go to Mitsuwa, which is far from my house. Before the pandemic, I went there once or twice a month, but I've only been there once since the pandemic began. When I go there, I shamelessly eavesdrop, even if I have to linger around a food fridge for a while, because live-speaking native Japanese speakers are rare in my area (I'd probably have better luck in California). A couple of years ago, I wanted to buy a croquette ("korokke" コロッケ) and asked the guy who was in the food booth a question. He said he didn't understand English, and started to get someone else to help, but I told him I could understand it. We said a few words, and it was wonderful! Another time I tried to speak Japanese, and it was a bust. I was visiting a radio show and was speaking with a Japanese guy in English. His friend didn't understand English, so I spoke some Japanese. The English speaker kept interpreting what I was saying, which made me feel like my Japanese was awful. I think it was because I didn't remember all the words I wanted to use, and my accent and probably syntax weren't great. I kept thinking that if I were speaking Spanish (which I can read but can't speak) at the level I know Japanese, they would probably get what I was trying to say.
I've been following Japanese accounts on Twitter, and I often have to look up words. Because Japanese can maximize the character count there, the tweets are longer than English ones. Sometimes I start reading them and want to give up because they seem so complex, even within that small space. And the kanji is brutal. There are thousands of kanjis to memorize, and just when I think I have a handle on them, many more pop up.
That's why I really like NHK's News Web Easy. First of all, the news stories are simplified, so I am able to comprehend the meaning via the sentence structure. And if I don't know the kanji readings, I can click 漢字の読み方をつける and the page will show all the kanji readings, and then I can click 漢字の読み方を消けす to turn them off. I can also listen to audio of the story as I read it. The only downside is that there aren't many stories to choose from, but it's better than nothing!
There is always the option of finding an article and pasting it into Google Translate, then playing the audio button. I don't know what happened to my favorite translating/deciphering website, Popjisyo. Is it gone? Before Google Translate became more robust, it was the go-to site for understanding Japanese and eventually other Asian languages (though I only used the Japanese part). I loved that site! But I noticed that Rikai is still around. Maybe I should try that.
Update: I just went to Popjisyo and it's back! Please don't go away, Popjisyo!
p.s. Order and get info about my novel Wicker Park Wishes at the Eckhartz Press site, www.wickerparkwishes.com
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