I’ve written before about how effectively studying a language requires certain things. A real desire to learn is important, as is being inventive enough to figure out how your own brain learns best, since every brain is different. It’s also useful to have what the Japanese called kan (勘、pronounced “kahn,” like this), a word which means perception or intuition and the ability to figure out meaning in abstract situations. If you’re kan ga ii then you’re good at making sense of something from very little information, but someone who is kan ga warui is terrible at picking up meaning from a few threads. Because I’m married to a Japanese woman whose English is less than perfect (which is my fault, since we speak Japanese at home), my American family has had to develop these sixth-sense abilities if they want to communicate with her. For example, when my wife added “gross lipstick” to her Christmas list, my sister was able to guess that she probably wanted gloss lipstick instead, and get some for her, and when my wife sends tells my family in San Diego what time my “fright” will arrive at the airport, it’s not hard to figure out that she’s talking about my flight. Someone who is kan ga ii will probably be able to intune out that a Japanese person asking for “potato” at a fast food restaurants would like French Fries, or that someone who’s about to “take a bath” to your house is really going to catch a bus. Of course it works both ways, and my wife often has to guess at what I’m talking about when I screw up my nihongo in front of her.
I’ll bet you’ll never be able to forget the word kan after this post.