When I first started studying Japanese in high school, I noticed that I actually got worse at remembering which way was left or right (in everyday life / English). I know that sounds strange but someone would say “Go left.” or “Its on the right.” And I had to stop and think about the direction before I knew for sure. I’m not sure if it’s directly correlated with studying Japanese but it was odd. Now that I’m older I got used to it again and I don’t have to think about it at all.
Has anyone had an experience with unexpected memory loss when learning a foreign language / Japanese? Or mixing up words and phrases with English. I’m curious about anything good or bad that happened as a result of Japanese study
After a couple of years of living in Japan teaching English and studying Japanese, I moved home for grad school. It took a while to get my English fluency back again. Even using one’s mother tongue (母国語）is a perishable skill if you’re away from it/using it differently than you would at home.
In my country, we speak (and generally use) both our native language and English. And since I use wanikani, watch anime, listen only on Japanese songs all the time, and (starting just recently) read manga in Japanese, I think 60% of the time I contemplate things in Japanese. When speaking to someone too, there are times I stumble which is the right word to say because what I was going to say is in Japanese and they won’t understand it.
Also, when I’m startled, I unintentionally say out loud 「なんだ?！」or when something suddenly hits me, I just say 「痛いな」. It sounds weab, really, I myself think its weird as well, but its hard to erase this habit by now.
Nothing helps you remember right from left quite like sitting on a train all day and hearing the PA announce お出口は（右／左）側です every time you pull into a station.
My personal little mnemonic for a while was “hida-right is wrong - which is to say, left”, but it’s also been pointed out to me that the り in ひだり finishes with a curve to the left, while the ぎ in みぎ finishes with a curve to the right.
I think my English proficiency has lowered a bit since I started with Japanese. Other than that, I feel that it’s opened my mind to a whole world of possibilities. Also, depending on how much time I devote in a given period to reading, listening to Japanese, I can find my conscious thought train drifting more towards JP than ENG. But not so much lately, only during intense studying.
So have I! The other day I was driving and someone told me to go right, and I stopped to think about it and I still went left. It’s not like I’ve ever been good at keeping them straight, but I think I’ve gotten worse since starting Japanese.
Also, sometimes I think of the Japanese word before the English one, even if I’ve been using English for an extended period of time. If I’ve devoted a lot of time to Japanese exposure over the last few days, I tend to think more in Japanese.
That is completely normal for multilinguals. I learned four languages in school and every time I felt that new vocabulary somehow replaced vocabulary I know in other languages. I would start a sentence in spanisch (because I somehow forgot all sentence connectors in other languages) then proceed to use german nouns (because you can just stick everything together) and english verbs. I’m glad all my friends speak german, english, spanish, french and a bit of japanese and korean as well. I don’t want to know how we sound to outsiders.
I’ve definitely had stuff like this happen. If I’m particularly tired and talking to someone I’ll suddenly forget how to say a word in English (my native language) and will only be able to think of the word in Japanese, tripping myself up. On the flip side of that, if I need a break from a difficult task and study a bit of vocabulary or grammar it’s easier for me to focus when I get back to the task.
Maybe not so weird, but the other day my Japanese-speaking friend, whom I haven’t seen for a while, came in the building where I was. I automatically spoke Japanese to her without even thinking about it.
Surprised the heck out of me.
I used to have a massive issue with remembering conversations I’d had in Japanese, it was terrible. I forgot plans I had made on several occasions (was reminded just before, but only very vaguely remembered I’d made them), and if people tried to revisit old conversations it always took me a while to remember what we had talked about.
More recently, it’s forced me to analyze English more than I had in the past. Since Japanese and English are so different, I eventually realized that when learning Japanese you’re not learning how to say a certain English phrase in Japanese, but the phrase that conveys the same meaning in Japanese. I know this is a thing in all languages, but it feels like a vast majority of Japanese grammar structures to me. Which then made me go back and wonder “Why do we say ’ _______ ’ when we really mean ’ _______ ’ ?” about English, it’s kind of frustrating. And I do stumble over my English significantly more than I used to, naturally, from using it less than at home. But God forbid someone tries to talk to me in the morning, English or Japanese. My ability to communicate is shot until I’ve “warmed up” either language.
Sometimes I’ll forget a word in English but will remember it in my native Tagalog. Recently this has been happening with Japanese as well; I forgot how to say ‘pronunciation’ in English and had to work backwards from the Japanese word 発音! “Sound departure, sound departure, the sounds you make from your mouth…” My fiance was incredibly amused.
Edit: Wanted to add another funny story: I recently started helping a friend who is interested in learning Japanese. I wrote a few notes for him in his notebook on how to read kana and a handful of common nouns and verbs. I wrote them in hiragana and romaji. The funniest thing was that in the middle of writing sample sentences for him in romaji, I would accidentally start writing them in hiragana! I ended up writing something like "hon wo yonでる” and didn’t even realize until he took a look at it later on
This was totally unexpected but romantic encounters with Japanese women eclipsed all romantic encounters with Australian women in a period of within 4 years of actually meeting and association with Japanese people compared to just over 15 years on the dating scene since leaving High Schoo. I am not saying Japanese women are easy but what did strike me is they are happy to get to know a person through interaction and talking to them rather than just judging them based on their appearance or possessions as I found with fellow Australians.
When I first started learning Japanese, I was also learning Esperanto. At that time, my Esperanto level was much higher and I found that I kept thinking of the Esperanto word instead of the Japanese word. I had to put my Esperanto studies on hold for a while to focus on Japanese, which was a higher priority because I’m currently taking further studies in Japan. A few months ago I restarted my Esperanto studies and now I have the opposite problem where I think of the Japanese word instead of the Esperanto word.
I’m looking forward to the time when all my languages (English, Tagalog, Japanese, Esperanto) can stay separate, but it’s not likely given that I tend to mix English, Tagalog, and Japanese when I’m talking to other Filipinos here It just feels natural to say the first word that pops up, no matter what language, to keep the conversation going without stalling.
When I was in the Philippines I used to work in what is hailed as the oldest Chinatown in the world and that is of course garnished with a lot of Chinese characters that I just ignore. Then when I started learning Japanese the characters felt like they gave birth to their own and everything has become lively, even though I can’t read all of them.
Oh, I also remember another thing. After living in Japan for a while and I after having a conversation in Japanese, I sometimes can’t remember if the conversation actually happened in Japanese or English. I still comprehend everything in English. I think it is so cool that I don’t remember the words so much as the actual feeling or meaning behind it.