To those who brag about how good you are in your Japanese class (or whatever language you’re learning), I’m here to say WAKE UP! I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard that before, and most of the time it’s not even true. Just because you know how to say “hi, how are you? I’m fine thanks” does not mean you’re fluent and good at that language.
Then, let’s say that you did all your 4 years of classes and you graduated. Unless you are a prodigy, that also does not mean you’re good.Sure you know the basics and you’ve written a few short essays in that language, sure you have friends that came from that country (most likely exchange students), AND sure you may understand anime episodes, but that still doesn’t mean you are good at that language.
Actually, neither am I.
But what I meant by being good at a language is being able to communicate well with people you just met. Being good at a language means you can get a job at a company by using that language skill, being good at a language means you can talk about an array of topics and can still understand and engage in that topic.
Anime and exchange student friends just don’t give you credibility. Why? Because friends will adjust their language, speaking speed and word choice for you to be able to understand. With friends, you can switch back and forth between English and Japanese. Friends get used to your mistakes and patterns that they know what you are trying to convey even though it’s not completely right. Manga and Anime are also bad examples because the language that they use aren’t really realistic and sometimes over-dramatized. You can come to understand it because of the pattern, and you have that visual aid to help you along.
Being able to speak with someone and be able to get hired because of your language skill means that you are able to adapt. You can learn and utilize technical terms and know different styles of the language and also when to use each one of them. Speaking with someone you don’t know means you may not be able to revert back and forth between English and Japanese and you may not be able to control the flow of the conversation. They might be someone from a different age group, or someone from a different subculture. That’s when the conversation drifts away from the normal day-to-day topics. That’s when you realize just how much more you have to study and learn.
That’s why I think studying abroad is essential. It will put you on the spot, out of your comfort zone. It will make you restart your friends-group and restructure your tolerance to things that you can tolerate and not tolerate. It will give you a time to solidify your self identity, or create one; i.e. finding yourself. And most importantly, it will make you use the language daily
That’s where I am right now. I’ve studied abroad before, but I realized that it wasn’t enough. I still want to be better. When I was studying abroad, I fooled around a lot. Traveled a lot. That’s not to say that using your study abroad that way is bad by any means. But I did realize afterwards that I should have dedicated more time to it. After graduating, the chance to use the language diminish. The time to study gets re-prioritized and eventually, simple kanji like 先生 and 昨日 gets forgotten.
I want to get back on track. Time to study! #struggleisreal