Why I Started Learning Japanese

I have a strong affinity in learning different languages and Nihongo is just one of them.

My interest in other languages particularly Japanese began when I first arrived in Cebu City, Philippines. That was when I got my first ESL teaching job. My students were diverse (Koreans, Japanese, Taiwanese, and Chinese), and I loved every minute with them for many years. Though teaching isn’t a walk in the park, I quickly developed a love for it.

I’ve met a lot of Japanese since I started my ESL teaching journey. I found them to be cordial, respectful, and disciplined. I had a student named Tomiya, and we used to call him ”Tomy” (that was his English name). I was his ”Mother Teacher”, so I had to spend more time with him than any other students. I learned so much about Japan in general because of Tomy. At the time, I promised to visit Japan.

One day, Tomiya spoke to me in Visayan, and I was surprised. ”Maayong buntag teacher, kumusta ka?”, he said. While I was delighted hearing it, I also felt ashamed for not even knowing what it meant in his language. On that day, I started learning a few basic phrases and greetings in Japanese: Arigatou Gozaimasu (ありがとうございます), Ohayou Gozaimasu (おはようございます), Ogenki desu ka (おげんきですか。). Little did I know that it would grow into something more like cooking Japanese foods, going nuts about matcha green tea, watching videos about the history of Japan, incorporating the Japanese minimalism into my own lifestyle, and setting my phone keyboard into Nihongo.

My interest in Japanese has never stopped growing. Thanks to my friend Satoko whom I called ‘one-sang’. We became close since the pandemic, and she has given some insights about her culture. She likes the Philippines as much as I like her own country. Though we don’t speak very often because of the language barrier, there’s a mutual connection between us. When I learned about her father’s passing, I painted a portrait of her as a present. It was the first time I gifted someone a painting.

I share many of the same values as the Japanese, and like most of them, I take punctuality seriously. I also like the Japanese minimalist philosophy or the idea of ‘less is more’. These are some of the many driving factors behind why I’ve always wanted to learn Nihongo.

There were times were I was unmotivated and everything just seemed confusing and distracting but then, during the pandemic, I was reminded of what I should be working on. It was when I started rolling up my sleeves again: studying Japanese and working on my application abroad.

I certainly believe that motivation is what drives me to make things happen —but staying motivated isn’t always easy, right? We’re much more likely to stay motivated if we’re working towards something that we genuinely want to do or achieve, rather than what other people want for us. So, let’s set our goals and stick to it. For as long as it’s something we’re passionate about, trust me, it will be done.

I know this pandemic situation is affecting our plans for the future but let’s not make it a hindrance to achieving our dreams. I’ve been asking myself, ”What are my dreams?” and I always come back to the promise I made to my younger self. I guess sometimes we just need to self-talk.

I remember an article that I read in New York Times. It was about the benefits of talking to yourself. It says that when we talk to ourselves, we’re trying to see things more objectively, so it matters how we talk to ourselves. I’ve also learned about the two types of self-talk and the most familiar to us is probably the instructional self-talk. It’s when we’re talking to ourselves through a task, and the second one is motivational self-talk, like telling ourselves, “I can do this.” I guess I’m more of the latter. How about you?

It may seem corny but motivating ourselves out loud can work. It really is.

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