Before starting my studies of Chinese and Japanese at university, I
decided to get a head start with the Japanese so bought myself a Linguaphone
Japanese course. Unfortunately due to lack of motivation and general
laziness I didn't study more than the first few lessons of the course.
Those taught me Japanese pronunciation and a bit of vocabulary and grammar,
which I later discovered was in a very formal style and not much use in
From 1989 to 1993 I studied Chinese and Japanese at
the University of Leeds. The Japanese part of the course consisted of
intensive Japanese language lessons, together with classes on Japanese
literature, history, economics, politics and religion.
During the second year of the course I spent four months studying
Japanese at the Kansai University of Foreign Languages
(関西外国語大学 - Kansai
Gaikokugo Daigaku or Kansai Gaidai for short) near Osaka. Most classes
there were taught in Japanese and I stayed with a Japanese
family, so I was well immersed in the language. Unfortunately four
months was not long enough to really get to grips with Japanese so
when I returned to the UK I could read Japanese to some extent
and was able to converse in it quite well, but was far from fluent.
Since graduating from university I've had few opportunities to use
my Japanese and have forgotten a lot of it. I can still read, write,
understand and speak it, though not as well as I once could. With a
lot of Japanese kanji I
know their Chinese pronunciation and meaning so can understand them
and can guess their on yomi (Chinese-derived readings) but
can't remember or don't know their kun yomi (Japanese reading).
When learning them I didn't always bother to learn their Japanese
pronunciations and meanings if I already knew them in Chinese. This
is not the best way to learn kanji as the Japanese meaning is not
always the same as the Chinese one.
In 2006 I started using Skype to chat to a number of Japanese people.
I can understand quite a lot of what they say to me in Japanese, and can
read what they write, but find it quite difficult to string together a
grammatical sentence in Japanese. We chatted at least once a week on average
in a mixture of Japanese and English.