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passion for language May 8, 2013

Posted by lumierre9 in chit-chat.
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in my previous post I mentioned about the book Wild at Heart, about men need to take challenges that can make them feel ‘alive’, men need to find out their true passion. I’ve been thinking about that, what is my true passion? what makes me excited? what kind of adventure I want to be in? I couldn’t get the answer right away. I feel that I’m not the type of person who can get very excited about certain thing. even when you ask my what is my favorite thing (food, book, movie, etc.) honestly I can’t really pick one. I still can’t tell what is my biggest passion, but I realized I do have some things that can make me excited.

these days since I have ‘too much’ free time, I decided to utilize my time to learn something, to gain new skills. at first I thought I would learn some iOS programming which I’ve been wanting to for quite a long time, but apparently I feel I’m still not motivated enough to start that. so I decided to learn languages, French and Chinese Mandarin. I learned them before a bit and I want to be really fluent in both. then I stumbled upon some books and videos in youtube about polyglots, or people who can speak many languages, and somehow it motivates me more. I got really fired up to learn languages, and I feel that this is it. language is one of my passion. I love doing it, and I want to have more adventure with it.

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inspired by the book The Polyglot Project I also would like to share a short story about my language learning journey and what I want to do with it.

I grew up in an environment which is surrounded by basically three languages. Indonesia has hundreds of local languages and my parents are from Yogyakarta province where people speak Javanese but before I was born they moved to West Java province where people speak Sundanese. at home most of the time they speak in Javanese and that gave me some understanding in Javanese, although I never try to learn about it or even speak in it. daily I only speak in Indonesian, at home and at school. we learn Sundanese at school also but in my school, as I suppose also happen in most other private school in Indonesia, we never speak fully in Sundanese but only mix some Sundanese words into spoken Indonesian. so I’m never fluent in Sundanese as well.

many people I met often asked me, “do Indonesian people speak English? why all Indonesian people can speak English very well?”. the answer is actually no. we never speak English in daily life. but I guess the environment helps us Indonesian people to learn English. at school we learned English just like in any other school in the world I suppose, with all the grammar rules and vocabularies we need to memorize but so little opportunity to communicate with. however, in university, we don’t have many books or references written in Indonesia, so most of the time we need to use English books. somehow that forces us to learn to understand English as well. so educated people would at least have a fair understanding of English.

the pop culture also influences our people in learning English. when I was a kid, there were so many TV programs in English with Indonesian subtitle. I still remember I watched sesame street on TV a lot. perhaps that’s the first time I learned English. nowadays there are less English TV programs in local TV stations, but more and more people are subscribing to cable TV where they can get access to many English TV programs. american pop songs or movies are also popular. although the degree of fluency for each people is different, but I guess these facts support us Indonesian in learning English. and that’s also how I learned English.

the next foreign language I learned is Japanese. I love comics, I read comics a lot, especially Japanese comics. I think that’s what motivated my brother to take a Japanese course when I was in 3rd year of junior high school. I had no interest in learning the language at that time, but somehow I started to learn hiragana, katakana, and even some simple kanji characters (like the characters for ‘one’, ‘two’, and ‘three’). but it didn’t go further than that.

in 1st year of high school, beside English, we had Japanese and Chinese subjects, although they are only for one hour a week each. I knew hiragana and katakana already so I did pretty well in Japanese. for Chinese, it was my first time learning it but I wasn’t interested at all so I was satisfied just by passing the subject.

around that time, me and some of my friends started to fancy some Korean pop artists, especially a girlband called Fin.K.L. I downloaded and watched many of their videos. I didn’t understand any Korean and I also never thought of learning Korean, but one time, comparing what they said with the Hangul (the Korean alphabet) displayed on the screen (I assumed that’s the transcription of what they are saying), I noticed some kind of pattern in it, and I just thought, I think it’s not difficult, I can learn it. so I looked for some lessons in the internet and indeed it’s basically just combining consonant and vowel like alphabet, not like Japanese or Chinese characters, so there I learned it with some simple Korean phrases.

during my 2nd year of high school, I decided to study more Japanese so I took a course starting from the beginner level. a course level in that Japanese school took 4 months with 2 lessons per week. but due to some circumstances I only finished one level at that time and didn’t continue the study.

since I always have interests in Japan and its culture I joined a Japanese cultural club in my university, and in my 3rd year I took another level of Japanese course with a friend, but again it stopped after finishing one level. after graduating from the university, instead of getting a full-time job I tried to look for some scholarship to continue my study in Japan. basically I had a lot of free time and I had the thought that having more Japanese ability can increase my opportunity to get a scholarship, so I decided to take the Japanese course again. to make the story short, finally I got a scholarship to Japan and before I left for Japan I managed to take two levels of the Japanese course.

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during that time, I had the chance to study French as well. the inspiration came from my mom who studied French before and can speak French quite fluently. she always said that she wants to be able to converse in French with one of her children. since I had the time so I tried to give it a go, and I enjoyed it. unfortunately I could only take two beginner levels of French course before leaving for Japan. I could speak a bit, make some simple sentences in French, but slowly I started losing it after coming to Japan.

about my Japanese, the first time I arrived in Japan I couldn’t speak anything. I couldn’t use what I learned before to communicate with people. but after taking an intensive course for one semester, I started to get used to it, listening and speaking in Japanese, but it didn’t improve much afterwards since I used English most of the time to communicate with my friends. it got better after my third year when I started my job hunting, because the condition forced me to have a better Japanese. I need to write my resume and essays in Japanese and I had to conduct interviews in Japanese as well. in the end, I got a job in a Japanese company and I started working last year. I have to use Japanese everyday and as I use it more, I’m also getting more and more fluent at it.

throughout my time in Japan, I met people from different countries, make friends with Thai, Chinese, Italian, Swedish, and many other nationalities. many times I tried to learn their languages but it didn’t get me far because I wasn’t motivated enough. but now I realized that actually I really like learning languages. it’s always in me. naturally I always want to learn new languages. but perhaps because I never set any goals through my language learning, I didn’t get enough motivation to go for it. sometimes I kinda regret how many opportunities I have missed up to now.

after reading so many stories on learning languages, inspired by the methods they use to learn, which I’ve never thought of before, I want to have those kind of eagerness to learn language again. I want to learn more languages so I can communicate with my friends in their native languages, and I want to help other people who are struggling to learn languages. only a simple goal for me at the moment, but I hope this can be my motivation to learn more. starting from French and Mandarin, I hope while I’m having this ‘free time’ at least I can be quite confident speaking both languages even if it’s just on simple conversations.

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