How many languages can you forget?

Now that I’ve graduated with my Master’s degree, how should I celebrate? I’ve got an idea: Why don’t I sign up for a class?

Starting in late January, I’m going to be doing a once a week, three hour class in beginning Japanese through the extension program at UC, Berkeley. There are a multitude of reasons for me to take Japanese but the two primary ones are twofold. These are that my primary connection to Buddhism these days is through Japanese traditions and that if I ever do plan to do more graduate work focusing on Buddhism, I will need to know Japanese.

I must say that as a 36 year old monolinguist, I’m not entirely looking forward to learning a new language or two. I spent five years in my pre-teen and teen years learning Russian in middle school and high school. Today (and since about 1993), I don’t really speak or understand much of it at all. This was entirely through lack of use and motivation in my younger years. I expect that it would be easier to pick it up again than it will be to learn Japanese. In the last six years, I did a bit of Ancient Greek and about a year of Latin, both of which pretty much bled from my brain as soon as I quit taking classes. I’m hoping to get enough chance to use Japanese for it to stick a bit better but the difficult point will be to learn to read well enough. This is because most of the use that I would get would be through my Internet work at Mozilla (we have a Japanese office and a large Japanese community) and through textual studies in Japanese Buddhism. There will be few immediate chances to speak it though, being in the Bay Area, I’m sure that there will be some opportunity.

We’ll see how it goes.