Language Rehab

At some point this year I took it upon myself to read one page of a book in Japanese every day. We’re still in February, which means not much has been read so far. I’m reading an anthology of short stories by Haruki Murakami. When I finish, or even before that, I want another Murakami book—one with a piece of flash fiction that truly spoke to me the first time I read it, back in Tsukuba. The story’s called 「ドーナツ化」(“Donutification”).

I’m excited about all this reading to come, but at the same time, the slow pace that my unaccustomed brain demands is ennervating. I feel like one of those people who must learn to walk again and it’s super painful and they must do it very slowly, investing all their strength in trying to take one or two clumsy steps. Sometimes I feel that I’m never going to make it, that the universe of any given language is too vast to grasp, that it’s too late for me to try to grasp it. Being a translator is not nice because it makes you aware of all the words you don’t know. And there’s never a time when there’s nothing to look up in the dictionary. Even your native language is too immense to comprehend fully.

Yet, it doesn’t make sense to give up. For once, the story I’m reading is too good to put down—or maybe not so much the story as all the little lights that have started appearing in a space that used to be utter darkness. Words. Images. Printed squiggles set in motion by my mind. It’s an exciting process, actually.

If I manage to keep on, by the end of the year I will have read… a book. Or maybe more. I might pick up speed at some point. The good thing is letting go of the fear and just doing it for the sake of doing it. I’m not at all satisfied with my current level, but I’m satisfied with myself for not giving up.

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