For as long as I can remember I’ve always had a fascination with languages. I don’t really know where that fascination came from, but I think it had something to do with the Spanish language game my parents had bought me when I was a youngster. I think I was somewhere around two when I started it. I thought it was the coolest thing that I could count to ten in Spanish or easily recite the days of the week like I was speaking in English.
I remeber the first time I heard Spanish being spoken by a native speaker. I was at a Walmart somewhere in Grand Rapids with Mom. It sounded like complete and total gibberish, but I knew that what they were saying made sense to them. I knew that it was like English, only different.
Over time as I grew up and had the opportunity to recognize that some people were speaking different languages I only became more fascinated. I wanted to learn as many as I could: Spanish, French, German, Portugues, Italian.
When I was in high school, I had the opportunity to work with some people from Russia and Thailand. They would converse amonst eachother in their native tongues and I would just listen trying to figure out what they were saying.
One day they said to me, “You must think it is weird to hear us speak in Russian.”
“No, not at all,” I replied. “I think it is fascinating because your language is so different from my own.”
I’m pretty sure they thought I was weird. Not as weird as the girl who was obsessed with anything and everything to do with Russia, including them, though.
In high school I had three choices: Spanish, German and French. I chose Spanish for the “easy A.”
Now that I am in college, a whole world of languages has opened up to me. And I do mean that quite literally. In my community, there are three universities. They teamed up to create the Tri-College University which allows any student from one of the three to take classes at one of the other three. Brilliant, if you ask me.
Between the three universities, nine different languages are offered.
Back in high school, I had signed up for a Chinese class through the local university, but that was too expensive and honestly way too much for me to handle three and a half hours every Monday and I wouldn’t get home until 10 pm, if I was lucky.
So why did I choose Japanese?
I remember the first time I heard Japanese spoken by a native speaker. I was watching Heroes and Hiro Nakamura was speaking with Ando (did they ever tell us his last name?). “Save the cheerleader, save the world.” I was intrigued!
I didn’t recognize anything. The sounds just blended together to form gibberish. How could what sounded like gibberish to me, actually mean something to them?
I wanted a challenge. Well that and both of my parents said no, it’ll be too hard. Even in my twenties, I have to rebel and defy them a little, right? I actually find Japanese incredibly easily. It comes almost naturally to me provided I keep up with it an study.
I also want to teach English in Japan someday and even though they will hire you without any knowledge of their language, I just don’t feel right doing that. I’ll write a post on why someday.
Also, I have discovered that Japanese is a fairly easy language to have access to native speakers speaking the language through anime. I only started watching it because of its wide availability in Japanese. And I have to say, it is exciting when you know what the characters are saying!
So, that is the long winded version on my fascination with language and why I am learning Japanese.
I have no doubt that my fascination with language will only grow as next summer I will be spending six weeks in Europe. One week will be spent in Spain and five weeks will be in Germany learning the language intensively.