Why I Started Learning Japanese

I have a strong affinity in learning different languages and Nihongo is 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 back in 2012. My students were diverse (Koreans, Japanese, Taiwanese, and Chinese), and I loved every minute working with them. Although teaching isn’t a walk in the park, but I quickly developed a love for it.

I’ve met a lot of Japanese since I started my journey in teaching ESL, and I am proud to say that many of them are now my good friends. I would like to talk about each one of them someday (including the very first Japanese man I met when I was a kid, Mina, and Satoko-san). I’d probably mention them on my future blog post.

Okay now back to my story, I had a student named Tomiya who we used to call ”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 myself to visit Japan, and that hasn’t changed ’til today.

One day, he 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. From that day forward, I started learning a few basic words 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.

There were times were I was unmotivated: everything just seemed confusing and distracting. But then, during this 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. It was even mentioned that there are two types of self-talk, and the most familiar to us are probably the instructional self-talk, like talking ourselves through a task, and the second one is motivational self-talk, like telling ourselves, “I can do this.”

Although it might be corny, but motivating ourselves out loud can work. It really is.

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