So as I said in my last blog post, I was super stressed out this whole last weekend; I feel like every waking moment I was trying to rehearse giving directions in Japanese and trying to memorize the places of things in and around the hotel. I actually still have some tabs open on my iPhone internet browser of the hotel map to study in my free time. I didn't sleep much and when I tried to take a nap, I was too stressed out to do so. To help me study, I made a thorough script of frequently asked questions and how I would respond if I were to be asked those questions. I also listed out all the banquet halls and restaurants and regularly quiz myself to see if I can remember where they are.
That sounds pretty intense but I was so glad that I did that because today was much easier than I anticipated. I think God knew how much anxiety I had so this morning was not busy at all and I just greeted people and helped them with check out instead of answering a ton of questions. When I did get questions, I surprisingly understood a lot better and was able to give sensible directions without slurring my Japanese as much. I'm still constantly asking for corrections so I can improve, though. There was only one time today that I felt I really "failed," but a co-worker was there to help me. I didn't understand what the client was saying and when I get overly frazzled, I think my Japanese level plummets and sometimes what I say may come off as impolite. I will get better at that hopefully.
Unfortunately the clients are still mainly Japanese and I barely get asked questions in English. Today a family from the U.S. did come up and ask for directions, and the other intern showed me how to help them. The family was super kind and understanding of me being an intern, so for that I was grateful. I am so thankful for the patience around me and I hope to extend the same when I am a working adult and have newbies/interns under me someday.
I learned a lot of new stuff today, like how to make reservations for people to go to restaurants, how to confirm customer room numbers, and how to use the computer system, but it was just a lot of information and I think they kind of felt bad at how much I was given all at once, so one person just said to focus on getting better at giving instructions and memorizing hotel information before worrying about using the hotel system or making reservations. I did start making a script for when I have to make phone reservations (scary) so I can represent the hotel well…
Towards the end of my shift someone took me out again just before it got busy to give me more training. I did some Japanese roleplay and she threw out some more questions that I would possibly have to answer. There is a lot more I need to practice, but I suppose I will just take it day by day.
I am starting to change some of my language study habits to see if it helps me improve:
1. Ask more questions at work
I used to not ask questions in my last internship because I was afraid that my question wouldn't make sense, but I'd rather there be an awkward moment between my co-worker and I than with a client. I ask a lot of questions now, even minute ones, about grammar, locations of things in the hotel, how to do something better, etc. I try to ask all questions in Japanese even if everyone can understand English, but if it is unintelligible than I will say it in English.
2. Practice saying stuff out loud
Usually I just practice stuff in my head, but of course I can think faster than I can speak in real life! Getting the words to actually come out of my mouth is a separate skill, so now I practice all phrases out loud or mumble them quietly if I am in a public place.
3. Go into every situation assuming you will understand what you hear
Deep down I would go into a conversation just assuming I wouldn't be able to understand the person, but I'm trying to change my mindset because half the time it is all mental. It turns out that I can understand a bit more than I expected. There is still a lot to learn, but now I try to eavesdrop more around me and will look up words throughout the day that I overhear so I can learn to listen to everyday Japanese conversation. On a side note, I actually do think my hearing is horrible and getting worse so I'm going to go to the doctor during my winter break.
Those are only three new things that I have started incorporating these past few days, so hopefully they can be useful to others who are struggling to get better in a language that they have been studying for several years. I might have to work harder than someone whose native language is Japanese, but hopefully it will all be worth it in the end.