Why Did I Start To Learn Japanese
I learnt to speak Mandarin Chinese since I was a boy, then I learn to speak English in my early twenties. Now after my mid-thirties, I decided to learn another language. Why? My purpose is threefold: I want to debunk a myth, conduct an experiment and build an asset.
What is the myth? People have been telling me that adults cannot learn as quickly as a child because adults in average have a poor memory. Some adults can’t even remember where they have left their wallets half of the time, let along trying to memorise those weird looking foreign words which simply don’t make any sense.
In my mid-twenties, I was once talking to a friend about the idea of going back to school to re-educate myself. He thought I was out of my mind. “You won’t have enough energy and mental capacity to study again because you have gone past the prime of your life for learning.” What he said somehow coincided with a popular saying often mentioned by my folks, which is “Don’t study after turning 40.”
If you are brought up in a culture which doesn’t believe such an idea, you probably wouldn’t fully understand the impact of this pessimistic belief upon their younger generations. Young people in China often do buy into that paradigm and end up letting their life fizzling away in a semi-vegetative state.
But I do notice that even in Australia many adults have little confidence about their memory and learning ability and give up very easily when it comes to learning something like a foreign language. So the myth still lives as far as I can see. As the mysterious threshold of the age of 40 is quickly approaching, I want to prove to myself that age has little bearing on my ability to master foreign languages.
What about the experiment? You may ask. Well, I have been studying science for the last couple of years and I know by heart that from a scientific point of view, no claim is true unless you have the results to back it up. How do you get the results? Simple, you conduct an experiment. There is no guess work involved, only the results have the power.
While I was studying science at the University, I discovered various ways to help me study efficiently. The study methods and the memory training tactics have proven to be very useful in science-related subjects because I frequently achieved the top marks in exams.
But how effective are those memory tricks or learning strategy in coping with a foreign language, only the experiment can tell. Although I felt very confident that I can do it, I just don’t have the result just yet. So it’s time to road test my learning methods.
The last purpose is to build an asset. I remember reading a book called the future of learning in which Michel Thomas the famous polyglot talked about his advice from his mother, “they can take all your possessions, but they cannot take away your knowledge.” So what you have learnt becomes part of you, an asset of your lifetime. For that, I found really enticing.
I wish I had known the language when I use to travel to other countries. It felt so awkward walking in the street of Narita in Japan not knowing how to ask where the nearest restaurant was.
While I was in Paris, I went to a restaurant not far from the Eiffel tower. My excitement of experiencing genuine French cuisine soon petered out when I finally got what I have ordered. The plate full of mushy stuff was not only very salty, but also did not remind me anything which I could recognise. Unfortunately for me at the time, I didn’t know how to explain to the waiter about my dissatisfaction.
In the next few years, I would like travel a bit more. And I don’t want to experience the feeling of being a mute and deaf person again. Which is why I want to incorporate languages into my intellectual portfolio. But why Japanese?
The reason is that it is widely accepted that The Japanese language is quite similar to Mandarin Chinese especially the writing system which was adapted from Chinese Hanzi. I have always been interested in finding out if knowing Chinese can make learning Japanese somewhat easier.
Besides my previous visits to Japan was very brief and I didn’t have enough time to explore the country and understand the culture more thoroughly. So next time when I visit Japan, I want to be able to speak and read the language.
My decision has been made, it’s time to take action and 日本語を話すましょう (Let’s speak Japanese)!