I've talked before about my friendship with my JET predecessor, Dylan, who stuck around in Japan after JET to attend grad school at Osaka University. He ultimately decided to focus his anthropological research on Thai culture. I think this must have been influenced by his dating a girl from Thailand while living in J-Land. He fell in love with her, then with the culture and language of her homeland. These days he's semi-permanently living in Thailand as he toils away at his PhD.
Lo and behold, first I followed Dylan to Japan, and now I am dating a girl from Thailand (alas I haven't followed him in achieving JLPT N1 yet). I've been on both sides of the international relationship before; my first girlfriend was Japanese, but since my ability was crap back then and her English was decent, we spoke English. My most recent ex-girlfriend knew little English, so we spoke Japanese. Now I find myself back in English mode. It's a little weird this time, since I don't know any Thai at all aside from a couple random words she's taught me, but interesting nonetheless.
Still, I find myself at a crossroads of sorts now. I'm not going to abandon my Japanese study. I still want to get to N1, and a career in translation still sounds appealing to me. Before meeting Mint, I had been half-heartedly starting to study Korean. I do want to learn another language or two. But time is an issue these days - there are jobs to get, kanji to learn, exercises to be done, and Fields of Justice to stain with the blood of mine enemies!
Well, I like studying and languages, so よっし行こう, right? But man, I am kind of intimidated. When I started Japanese, I thought it was hard bollocks. I sometimes still do. Thai, though! I never thought I'd say Japanese is easier than another language, except maybe Chinese. Thai has a kind of large alphabet, like Japanese. Despite its letters looking like they require a calligraphy class to master, Thai doesn't use kanji, though, so that's one less thing (or several thousand!) to worry about. But what it lacks in writing difficulty, it makes up for in the speech department. Thai has tones - the one thing that was really dissuading me from Chinese! There are like 3 or 4 different ways to pronounce "ma" - each with a different meaning. I imagine that such nuance takes a lot of time and practice to get passably good at. And yet, I do want to learn more about my girlfriend's native culture. If I meet her parents someday, it would be nice to be able to exchange rudimentary pleasantries. And of course I'd love to know what she's saying on Facebook!
And so I press on.