Sunday, July 22, 2012

Reading for pleasure.

Last evening, I was giving a public lecture jointly with my best friend Ryo Hatoh at the Academy Hills in Tokyo. In the aftermath, we were doing the small talks, when Ryo casually mentioned how he used to love reading the Lord of the Rings.

That gave me an idea. This morning, I visited Amazon and downloaded the kindle version of this famed trilogy.
Here’s a little bit of personal history. I read the Japanese translation of the Lord of the Rings when I was a junior high student. Then, at senior high, about 4 years after starting to learn English, I made the (then for me) daunting effort of reading the original version. I must confess it was hard at that time. But I enjoyed the trial even so.

I still remember how I waited eagerly the end of the exam period. Released from the burdens of cramming, I would walk carefree under the blue sky, get on the train, and start reading the Rings straight away.

I still remember the tremendous joy I felt going through the pages, and yet, there was also a sense of guilt. In an educational system where too much emphasis is put on paper exams, absorbing oneself in a fantasy novel seemed to be a silly idea, even if it improved my English capabilities in a general sense.  It was actually this sense of guilt that made the reading of the Rings such a thrilling adventure.

Seeing through the (with the benefit of hindsight) perverse perceptions, I can now understand how my learning should have been organized. My English education should have been exactly like the experience of reading the Rings, rather than filling my head with silly grammatical rules. Lord of the Rings was actually a much better English teacher than all the meaningless entrance exam preparations combined.

Now I am looking forward to my second read, after 30+ years. 30+ years. Gee.