I recently came across a gem of passage by Professor Jay Rubin, whom many of you may know as a translator of Haruki Murakami's works. It's from a book Rubin wrote called Making Sense of Japanese: What the textbooks don't tell you and I wanted include it here in this inaugural blog post because it strongly resonates with me as well. It reflects my own experience of learning Japanese, and partially explains why the work of written translation is so meaningful to me.
"For the fact is that Japanese, especially for those of us who have learned to read it after childhood, never loses its exotic appeal; each page turned reveals to the eye a new spectacle of outlandish squiggles that momentarily takes the breath away. And written in those squiggles or spoken by the people who were raised in the language are equally outlandish syntactic structures - not only passives but causatives and passive-causatives and te-forms with oku's attached or morau's and itadaku's and zu's that make our minds work in ways that can never be conveyed to those who do not know the language. There is a thrill in realizing that you can process this stuff with your very own brain.
"I have long been convinced that, as we speak - but especially as we read this foreign tongue - just beneath the threshold of consciousness, a voice continually shouts, 'Look, Mom, I'm reading Japanese!'"
Rubin then goes on to say, however, that it is not just we foreigners who experience this thrill, but that the Japanese themselves read their language in the same way, because its complexities and abundance of Chinese characters are of course challenging for everyone.
Japanese never gets boring.