Last night, Khatzumoto, a friend, and I sat down for a marathon of the first season of Trick, our favorite mystery-comedy series starring Nakama Yukie and Abe Hiro. I was feeling a bit discouraged because my level of comprehension was the lowest in the group. But after watching nine episodes in a row until the wee hours of the morning, I unexpectedly reached a new milestone last night: I dreamed in Japanese.
Now I didn’t have a dream where everything was in Japanese. But I definitely remember trying to understand or speak real Japanese words in (hopefully) meaningful sentences—just like I’d been trying to understand the dialogue in the show. After six hours of listening, the language had become so familiar that my mind was reproducing it on its own. Cool.
I honestly never thought it would happen so soon. My listening level is still abysmal, my speaking level practically non-existent (although my pronunciation isn’t bad ). Dreaming in Japanese was the last thing I was expecting. But it happened, and (if it hasn’t already) it can happen to you too.
The key, I’ve found is simply listening, for long periods of time. I wasn’t pausing and writing down sentences or anything; we didn’t even have Japanese subtitles turned on. I was just trying to follow the show. Pausing, looking up words and checking subtitles is certainly important, but so is pure continuous listening. The first helps you build up vocabulary and match sounds to words; the second gets you used to real-time speed and rhythm and tests how fast you can recall what you’ve learned.
I’ve gotten pretty good at reading Japanese, but since the last Obon visit to a Japanese friend’s house, I realized: I have to practice this listening thing more if I ever want to carry on an actual conversation. Well, I’m off to the video store now to pick up the second season of Trick and hoping for some more pleasant dreams in Japanese.