Archive for June, 2016


You’ve got to have goals, right?

I think that’s something I’ve been lacking since law school started. Through elementary school and high school and undergrad, there was always something I was shooting for. An academic award, a prize, finishing a cross-country race in less than 10 million minutes, a certain GPA, whatever. There was always something that I wanted to achieve.

I didn’t really aim for anything in law school though. I recognized very early on that although I could put up average to above average grades across the board, there was no way I’d be getting any awards – not without devoting my entire existence to schoolwork, anyhow. I did a basic cost-benefit analysis and decided that it just wasn’t worth it, and so I spent three years without any goal other than “pass” and “get a job”.

Now that I’m done with school, I think it’d be good for me to have something to aim for again. Unfortunately, there’s not much to aim for within the articling process other than “pass the bars” and “get another job once this one is over”.

Here’s where my renewed Japanese study comes in. It’s so easy to have a goal when it comes to learning a language. In fact, it’s easy to have tons of goals. Being able to order food in the language of your choice could be a goal. Being able to read a particular book or short story could be another.

As for myself, I think the ultimate goal would be to become as strong with Japanese as I once was with French. Not fluent, but strong enough that if I was in a situation where I had to speak to someone in that language, I could do it and the other person would understand me in spite of grammatical errors.

That’s way down the line though. I mean, I studied French for a dozen years. Granted, for less than an hour per day, and only three days per week, but still. I don’t expect to get that far with Japanese for years, if ever.

As a more immediate goal, I like the idea of taking the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) in December. It’s a standardized test which is held in dozens of countries worldwide to evaluate non-native Japanese speakers.

There are five levels of the test, ranging from N5 (basic) to N1 (near fluency). I’d be attempting the N5 in December, unless I progress faster than expected and feel ambitious enough to attempt the N4. Since the test is only held once per year in Toronto, I’d rather pass the N5 than fail the N4 and have to wait a year to retry, so I’m likely to err on the side of caution on that front.

Whether I actually go through with this or not remains to be seen. Two weeks in I’m still pretty gung-ho about this Japanese thing, but that enthusiasm could fade over time. For now though, the JLPT is something to aim for, and that’s more than I’ve had in a while.


A few blogs ago I’d mentioned that I’d be jumping back into language study to help keep me occupied while I’m here in Kingston.

The question was, which one?

And really, there was only ever one choice.

Yes, French would have been the most practical option. Yes, Italian would have put me in touch with my heritage. Yes, I could have started along a new path and pursued German, having been in that country just a month ago.

But it was always going to be Japanese.

There’s just no other language course – or any other course, period – that I’ve been as excited to take as I was to take Japanese in my final year of undergrad. And when I dropped Japanese halfway through the year due to the heavy workload I was facing, it was with every intention of returning to the language at some point.

Well, it’s some point.

I don’t know exactly how I’m going to do this. The first step is going to be to re-learn hiragana and katakana. I can do that easily enough on my own for free. From there, I’m looking at perhaps using WaniKani (lit. “AlligatorCrab”), which seems to be a good way to learn the kanji which stumped me so badly last time around. I’d have to pay for it after a month or so, but I suspect the price would prove worth it.

I’m somewhat limited in terms of actual classes here in Kingston given that I work full time, but there are plenty of other options. I could find a tutor. I could join an online language exchange group. I could plow through my old textbooks on my own. I could ask my sole Japanese friend for help.

I’m excited to do this, I really am. It’s been a long time since I was this excited about anything. Whether I’ll be able to maintain this enthusiasm as the weeks and months go on remains to be seen.

But for now, がんばって!

I think. Heh.

Dahlia Hawthorne

Two weeks in, and I’ve already come to a conclusion: I don’t think I could do criminal defence for a living.

That’s not to say that it’s been a bad experience. It’s just that my morality is being tested in a way that I would not be able to handle in the long run.

The first case I’m having to work on is a fascinating one. It’s domestic violence, but with a twist: male victim, female accused. The accusations leveled against her were shocking to read, and so I expected a certain type of appearance and demeanour when I went to meet her with my boss last week.

Instead, what I got was Dahlia Hawthorne:

I acknowledge that I often have to stretch in order to relate things back to video games, but this one fits almost perfectly. See, Dahlia Hawthorne stems from the Phoenix Wright series, where you take on the role of a criminal defence lawyer.

Dahlia appears as a witness in a murder trial. She arrives on the scene as this beautiful young woman, gushing with grace and serenity. Her theme music conveys a sense of calm and peace, particularly in contrast to rest of the game’s upbeat soundtrack.

But, spoiler alert, Dahlia ends up being arguably the single most evil entity in the entire five game series.

And that’s who I immediately thought of when I saw this client. She was intelligent, attractive, and well-spoken. She carried herself with dignity and class. Having seen plenty of criminals over the past two weeks, she most certainly does not fit in with the majority of them.

Yet, if the accusations are true, she is without a doubt the most despicable human being that I’ve ever spoken with, and whoever is in second place is a long, long way down.

Here’s the thing: I think she’s guilty. I’m not certain of it, but I’m more convinced of her guilt than her innocence. Despite that, I am being paid to find a way to get her to go free – on a technicality, no less.

In other words, if I do my job well, someone who I think is a sociopath will be released back into society.

Will I be able to handle doing that sort of thing for 10 months? Sure.

Longer than that? I don’t think so.