We went on a pleasant, and exhilarating, hike along the Ishizaka Stone-Paved Road, which was a primary route between Hita and Nakatsu during the 18th and 19th century.
An interesting aside was a fellow named Mr. Yasui, who spoke hardly any English, perhaps none. I speak hardly any Japanese so we were both at a disadvantage when talking with each other. At some point during the journey I came across a few flowers (hana, はな) that I found interesting.
It was still early spring and not quite the season where all of them were blooming. I wanted to ask Mr. Yasui the name of the flowers. I knew “what” (nani, なに) and the word for flower, so I said “nani hana?”, literally, “What flower?” I felt a little embarrassed saying it so awkwardly without proper grammar but he responded and told me the name of the flower, which means he understood what I was trying to say. And one wall of fear came down. The next thing I saw was a small plant that I thought looked like the flower I saw. So I pointed and said, “Kore wa… hana kodomo?” (kodomo こども= child) literally, “This flower child?” I’m sure I sounded like a complete fool but Mr. Yasui understood what I was trying to say and informed me that it was a different plant, being a sprouting fern.
I’ve found that learning a language is a complex task that considers a wide range of skills, ranging from simple vocabulary and grammar to the more complex ideas that rise from usage and contextual meaning. It is a daunting task and there is a certain fear that comes with learning a new language, especially the dreaded, “I look stupid,” or, “I sound stupid.” You don’t sound stupid. I don’t sound stupid. We don’t sound stupid. You are learning and you are trying, which is more than most people can say. In fact, that fear extends far beyond just learning a language. It wiggles its way into every new thing we try. But how can we know what we don’t know? Everybody begins somewhere. Why not here and now? Use it! Jump right in and begin using your new skill in as many new contexts as possible!