10 - Japanese Words of Wisdom

Is this your first time studying Japanese?

If it is, and you're still reading this, that's amazing. And maybe this email won't help you much.

Because I don't know how to get anything right the first time.

When I first made NihongoShark.com, I was really excited to build it.

I spent hundreds of hours learning web design.

Hours and hours.

Writing articles. And free guides.

Emailing readers.

Then, a few months in, I was starting to feel pretty happy with myself, pretty happy with my site.

So I went on some Japanese forum, and I posted a link to my site, said, "Check this out."

Most people were nice, but not interested.

That's cool, man.

Oh yeah, nice.

But then there was one comment that got me:

Don't quit your day job.

I read that, and I thought, I knew it. This site is worthless. It's a waste of my time.

So I quit.

Same way I quit Japanese.

Same way I quit kanji.

Same way I gave up on my dream of living in Japan. My dream of riding a train out into the Japanese countryside, earphones on, looking at shrines pass by, at rice fields, old ladies on bicycles.

Loser Niko let that go.

No, wait. That's not right.

That was Cry-Baby Niko. Because I'm still Loser Niko.

I mess up everything.

The only difference is that now, when I lose, when I fail, I just deal with it.

That was the only real key to me learning Japanese, to becoming a person I'm happy with. To seeing an exciting life unfolding before me.

Maybe you think, I studied 500 hours and I'm still not where I want to be.

どうしよう
dou shiyou
What do I do?
(Literally, "How + let's do.")

Quit.

Or keep going.

And those are the only choices in any great undertaking.

If you don't quit, you will learn Japanese. You will learn kanji. You will hit whatever goal it is you have for this language.

I you do quit... well, you won't.

And that's my way-too-long intro to today's Japanese. My favorite Japanese proverb of all time:

雨降って地固まる
ame futte ji katamaru

And I don't know how to translate that into English.

But the literal translation is, "Rain falls, and the ground gets harder."

雨 (ame), "rain"
降って (futte), "falls (te-form)"
地 (ji), "ground"
固まる (kamataru) "hardens"

Speaking of failing/falling, by the way, until writing this post, I thought 地, in this proverb, was chi (because it usually is), but I just learned that it's ji. Idioms and kanji throwing me off my game. One more mess-up ^_^.

So how should we translate that?

"Pain makes us stronger?"

I don't know.

But if we let our failures rain down upon us...

Again. And again.

...then we harden. We get tougher.

And eventually, the rain won't bother us at all. We will welcome it, because it makes us better.

Because it is a path to change.

雨降って地固まる
ame futte ji katamaru