Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Every child is born into a system of language.

Every child is born into a system of language. I was born into the universe of Japanese, spoken by 130 million people but virtually confined to the island nation.

English came as a second language. Nowadays I use it constantly in my professional and private lives. As a non-native speaker I still have difficulties handling things.

Fortunately the situations are improving. I feel more and more confident and find tremendous joys in going over national borders and getting connected with people on the globe via the lingua franca. Having said that, the fact that English came to me as a second language has been a source of tremendous hardships in my life.

If only English was my native language. Such wishful thinking sometimes do come to me. On the other hand, there must be some advantages of being born into a minority language. I am yet to find the specific blessing. Maybe the point is too subtle to be made in a short period.

At the least, because of the difficulties experienced, I am set out to do a particular kind of soul searching. Hopefully I stumble upon some valuable truth one day because of this wandering around.


freeandhope said...

Good Morning!

I am Japanese and I have also tried hard to get my English competence.
I think I am lucky to be Japanese because I can have a different view from those speaking English as a native language. To be honest, I think I have a broader view of the world than those speaking only English!

agitlog said...

I have grown up in a french speaking country with a Japanese mother and an almost illiterate french-italian father and went to an english speaking school. Chomsky argues that human languages is a system that is innate. I am however still unsure on which language among those three, have been the most formative, like one formats a drive which underlays the reading and writing of data. When we speak of language we think of logic, perhaps in my case french logic is more dominant than the other two, but I also like to think of language as music, it's fundamentally lyrical and I suspect I like to listen to sounds and music that resembles the music spoken by my brain. Then there is rhythm which comes from the delivery of the speech and how you punctuate your thoughts in this particular language. More often than not we hear foreign languages as one long series of words without rhythm or intonation because even if we have the vocabulary we might not know how to punctuate; thus leaving us breathless and every sentences seem like a long slur. I am certain that languages, piano alike, it has to be picked up early to be a virtuoso.My distrust in foreign language schools comes from he fact that it's a good place to form skillful parrots that can sing the score but one seldom attains the level of being able to write one ourselves. By writing a score I mean; Being able to grasp the poesy of a language. Understanding its intricacies,and deliver, express something which is genuinely yourself. Being totally original whilst being expressed in a manner that only this language can.

Oli M. said...

Maybe it's not an advantage being born into a minority language, but the opportunity to learn another language can be clearer than for us native English speakers. It happens I'm learning Japanese at the moment.

I get a lot of questions like, "Are you Japanese? Then why are learning Japanese?"

A lot of my friends here in America take language classes in school for recreation or to fulfill requirements, but rarely take the steps to really learn how to communicate.

There is a level of devotion that many miss out on. Especially after beginning Japanese studies in earnest, I respect how difficult it is to learn a language--it is really a commitment at the life level. Language acquisition, too, is a different process than learning interrelated facts from a book or the web. To even approach fluency, a language must truly become part of yourself. It is eventually less about "knowing" than "being".

Learning a language with the objective of fluency is a window into the world of high level implicit knowledge that we also witness in craftsmen, artists, and professional athletes. I am happy that the common person is more in touch with the world of ideas, but sometimes we neglect the older pursuit of honing skill until it becomes part of us.

Anonymous said...

Keep on trudging on.
For me, an inverse... I was always obsessed with Japanese aesthetics, technology, animation and came, naturally, to learn Japanese. I'm still iffy on a lot of grammar and more advanced vocabulary but I won't give up till I can speak to any Japanese person on a close level.

Ted said...

When you speak Japanese, you think Japanese. English likewise. So, your interpretation of this world is twice as broad. Isn't it something?

Little Dolittle said...

I am one of the pupils who are inspired to develop a sense of English by you. There are few, in fact hardly any scenes using English in my usual life, except to see a film or read a writing in English.
I would like to recommend a certain carefree way of studying to similar pupils.
Speak to plants and animals in English!
My cats can listen to any earnest language, and I realize how difficult to express only a simple thing in English.

ichi said...

I've had my 3chaildren learning English since they were babies.
At an elementary school,They do'nt have chances to leran English yet.I hope they will have a good command of it.
However in such a education system in this country, keeping to learn English costs a pretty penny.
Some of the people say that it does'nt need to study English early on and it is just important to master the Japanese language completely.
I feel the children have an ability to master some languages at once.

(ma)gog said...

Dear Mogi sensei!

I really enjoyed your yesterday's lecture at Science Frontier high school.

I agree, that the problem which hinders Japan to intergrate with the globalization is not the language, but the mindset of the Japanese.

It will take time, but we must not give up to nurture the "true" intelligence in our mind, in order not just to catch up with, but to make ourselves be able to contribute to the benefit of the rest of the world as well.

I still can't believe that I could be brave enough to ask you for your autogragh in that circumstance, but now I am really happy to know that your signature is in my dear old "Anne of Green Gables"! Thank you very much!

Sassa said...

I have often felt very fortunate that my native language is so widely spoken. Learning Japanese has been easier due to the number of loan words I can recognise. Whenever I see katakana, I eagerly scan it to see if it will be a recognisable phrase.

The last loan word I discovered while practising my reading was プレゼンテーション - a good word to know! I will know my fluency has reached a high level when I can give a presentation in Japanese!

I like that some Japanese words have made their way into English, too. It is another form of cultural exchange.

yuzu said...

Thank you very much,Mr.Mogi.
I got "mogidas". I think Japanese is wonderful language.

TAICHI said...

So do I. I really want to know what the advantage of being people who use a minor language. I still have been thinking a minor language is good to talk as a secret

But one good thing for speaking Japanese is to express more elegantly rather than English such as a straight language, I guess.