Coming to study abroad in Japan for an entire semester, I knew that there would be some difficulties I would face. However, I never thought that the language would be the main one. I though that after three semesters of a language, I would be able to at least have simple conversations with people. I feel as if all the time and money put into me learning a language was for nothing. It's not necessarily that I don't know how to speak, but I just get so nervous that I'm going to say something wrong that I forget everything I learned. All the vocabulary and grammar rules just leave my brain, and sometimes even English too.
This has also been a huge struggle with my host family. I originally requested a family that knows a lot of English but my family knows no English at all. Half the time I don't know what they are saying and the other half I do but don't know how to respond. It's so frustrating that sometimes my host sister (who is 8) will say, "Camille can't understand Japanese," which I can understand but can't really respond too.
Although I could have easily left my host family and go to the dorms, I figured this would force me to study more; which it has. Both my family and I try really hard to understand each other with dictionaries and writing. We even act it out or draw it on a white board which makes it also a lot more fun and less stressful. Plus, I have just started to get use to living with them.
One of the biggest issues I am facing is the accents. Just like how in the U.S. you can tell if someone is from Kentucky or from New York, Japan has accents as well. In class they each you Tokyo Japanese which is considered "proper Japanese." However, my host school and my homestay are in Osaka so everyone has an Osaka dialect (Osaka-ben). For the most part, this means that some words have different slang meaning or (most of the time) words and phrases are shortened or pronounced differently.
More specifically my host school is located in the Kansai region of Osaka so not only am I struggling with Osaka-ben, now I have deal with Kansai-ben too! The words and the way people around my school and homestay say things are different from other locations like central Osaka. This makes listening to people and trying to understand them very difficult. I'm still learning a lot and struggling when communicating with people but hopefully by the end of the semester I will feel much better with my Japanese. Then again, I guess this wouldn't be such a worth wild challenge if there wasn't some kind of language barrier.