Learn a Second Language!

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Photo by DuBoix at Morguefile.com

When I started writing this blog, I noticed something that occurred on all of my previous blogging and podcasting endeavors. That thing, of course, is where my audience comes from.

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Screenshot of my blog’s audience location

Now, according to the communications I’ve had with my good friend Cupitonians, she’s actually in Thailand. However, WordPress displays this as China. Regardless, there is one thing that is abundantly clear: People outside the United States are visiting my blog. Even a small audience for me is international.

To me, that’s actually quite empowering. I have the knowledge that the content I produce will be read by people around the world. If I were writing for a local paper in the pre-internet days, I’d be lucky if that paper was picked up outside my city. If I wanted to write for a wider audience, I’d have to join a newswire agency like the Associated Press or Reuters. If I were lucky, that news would reach international territory within a matter of months. That is, if it even reached outside of the country at all.

Our Connected World

In my previous endeavors, I’d get people from Pakistan and India. The internet has connected cultures in a way that was not previously possible.

As the level of connectedness has changed, so too has the skill set required to survive and thrive in the world we live in. The most obvious one is going to be language.

In a world with 6,500 languages, knowing only one is going to severely limit your options. Even in the United States, being able to speak Spanish is going to open your options up further. When I worked at Best Buy, one of my co-workers was able to interact with customer because he spoke German.

Learning a language also plays a part in understanding the culture in which it comes from. This is especially valuable when trying to reach others cross-culturally. In order to understand a culture, you must by necessity understand the language which facilitates transmission of cultural ideas.  Otherwise, you’ll have to rely on translation services and interpretation. Like the game of telephone, the more people who go in between communication, the more the meaning can shift. Knowing the language gives you a direct line of communication with your audience.

To the Eastern Capital!

What was my language of choice to study upon my introduction to college? Japanese, one of the most difficult languages for a native English speaker to master.

Unlike Spanish, where sentence structures can be carried over from English, I had to learn a whole new way to construct basic sentences. I remember feeling like I was five again, learning how to put words together in a sequence for the first time.

The class had a self-selecting process, where the students who were casual anime aficionados gradually got weeded out by the bulldozing power of kana tables, kanji memorization, and constant pop quizzes at the beginning of class.

Unfortunately, I was gradually left behind as well. My grades were solid “B”s in my 101 class, but it was when I took 102 began that trouble began to brew. I recognized that I was failing about halfway through the course, but I managed to turn it around and make it into a “C”. I took 201 and barely passed with a “D”.

I was absolutely steadfast in wanting to go to Japan, as I am today. I haven’t traveled outside the US in years, and I want to go somewhere else in the world during my lifetime. I was not there to spout out-of-place vocabulary words like “kawaii”. I wanted to expand my horizons.

I had no one to talk to regarding Japanese. No way to practice my conversational skill. I could pick up the occasional vocabulary word from an anime, but not much more than that. Like a muscle, without use a skill in a language dries up. I can, with some effort, piece together basic kana. But I learned some cool things. One of those is that the kanji for “Tokyo” literally translates to “eastern capital”.  I also learned that the characters that comprise “USA” in kanji are the kanji for “rice” as well as “country”. I’m sure there’s a funny story behind that in class, but I don’t remember it.

Could I have prevented my decline? Maybe, but I’d rather not dwell on it. In the future, I intend to retake Japanese, starting at the beginning. This time, I’ll do it right. Maybe when I do that, I’ll begin to see a little notification in my WordPress admin page that shows me a visitor from Japan. Now that would be cool.

2 thoughts on “Learn a Second Language!

  1. You’re right about the power of the internet to connect, and to give us a global platform. In Thailand, a lot of the expats are Japanese and so I hear it all around. I have often thought of you, knowing how much you would’ve enjoyed engaging with them. I’m sure you’ll get an audience from Japan soon enough.

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