I feel like I’m in college or school all over again, creating flash cards to memorize all the Japanese verbs and nouns and common phrases. Only difference is that now, it’s not an option – I HAVE to learn if I have any hopes of communicating more than greetings and saving my energy from vehemently pantomiming what I wish to say.
One of the Japanese teachers shared with me her grief regarding Japan being one of the worst English-speaking Asian countries. “The fact that Japan does not need to learn another language because we can get by is an old idea,” she said, passionately I might add. “This only increases our isolation. How are we going to communicate our good ideas if we can’t communicate with the rest of the world?” I smiled at her opinion, perhaps agreeing with her. It definitely strengthened my purpose for being here, to be part of a change this country hopes to make. Actually this year, Japan’s Ministry of Education is taking steps to increasing the English standards for Japan, which I learned today from a work email notifying us of an upcoming workshop, where all of us teachers are required to attend to discuss how we can be more effective teachers to ensure these kids are learning English, and learning it well. Their goal is for the future of Japan to be more proficient in English. So, it looks like it’s safe to say that this Japanese teacher’s opinion is more than her own, but a national opinion.
So while the future of this nation strives to learn English, I strive to learn Japanese, not so I can communicate some great idea, but simply to get by. I’m just tired of looking like a deer in headlights! Looking like a baka – stupid in Japanese. I seriously need to start understanding and be able to respond. I know I’ll start out with such broken Japanese – forgetting my articles and giving wrong tenses, sounding all “letter to mail America wanted” – but if the cashier or clerk or police officer can at least gather what I’m trying to say, I’ll take it! With this endeavor to learn this language, it helps to be able to empathize with my students. I think they appreciate that I know learning another language really is no picnic.