What drives you to study Japanese? What’s your reason behind studying Japanese? My story…



Yesterday i had a small chat with 2 of my students. They were facing some problems at the language school that they were studying. The teacher at the language school encouraged them to use words that they didn’t know. To me, i feel that that is encouraged, but i don’t think they should at the level when they don’t even know the appropriate word to use.

Ok, back to the main topic, they were wavering because they were not sure why they were studying Japanese. Initially it seemed to be for work purposes, as time passes, that reason seems to have disappeared.
I remember when i was taking my JLPT 2 (old N2) the 2nd time, there was a period i was seriously depressed because of too much Japanese. Cos every day i was touching Japanese, studying Japanese, grammar and Kanji. At that time, i was very fortunate to have a very good senior which i got to know online. He was a JLPT 1 holder. He was teaching me Japanese vocabulary and JLPT 2 grammar. I told him about my problem that i faced. He told me that it’s a symptom that everyone who studies Japanese excessively/no time to study Japanese will have. Basically, when you have this symptom, you will find that whatever you try to study, it will not go into your head. He told me to relax, don’t touch Japanese for about 1 week, let my mind relax and ask myself the above 2 questions. That was when i really started to think about what i want for myself in the future.

I was borne in a not so well to do family. My dad wasn’t working and my mum (accountant) was the only breadwinner of the family. Everything that i wanted, i had to earn/achieve myself. When i was young, like everyone else during my era, we were watching animation like Doraemon, 魔神坛斗士,Slayers, Ultraman Tiga, etc. I became very fascinated with the anime and the songs. I was thinking if i could understand what they meant, that will be very special for me. So the desire to know Japanese slowly grew. I was also kinda having lots of doubts on the translation presented.

I started to watch more Japanese shows when i entered polytechnic. Although i had to rely on subtitles, it was ok for me. At that time, i still remember that my mum will nag at me cos she had to pay the phone bills for the use of the 56kbps modem. During my 2nd year, I was lucky to be able to take Japanese as one of the free modules. I took that and after that i didn’t continue, due to the financial issues at home. The point that really changed my direction in Japanese was when i was in army when i started to earn my own pathetic allowance (at that time, sadly my mum was not around anymore), when my colleague at that time (now a professional translator) kept on telling me how good his classes are. That was when i started to think what i want in life. So in Jan 2006, i started my language journey with Hougang Japanese School. I was very lucky to meet a very good beginner teacher, Seki-sensei who taught me for 1 term (20 lessons). It was she that introduced to me 国語 (the Japanese that Japanese people study in their school), then later on Kitahara-sensei, who was teaching me till i reached my JLPT 3 (old N4). Halfway during my intermediate studies (Jul 2007? ) , i jumped over to also try Kitahara-sensei’s JLPT 2 class (at that time, i knew i had the ability to learn more cos i was doing a lot of self studying for JLPT 3), i took the JLPT 2 (old N2) instead of JLPT 3 (old N4). Yup, i didn’t make it, but i was happy with my grade, 177/400 (passing mark: 240/400) .Till now, that score is still vivid in my mind.

In Jan 2008, i went over to Ikoma and took their JLPT 2 course. My teacher, Ms Bullet-Train (everybody calls her that when she’s not around, haha) cos she speaks like a bullet train during comprehension time. I must admit, she’s really a good teacher. But unfortunately, i think she doesn’t teach JLPT 2 anymore. While i was in Ikoma, i was also taking online classes from good teachers based in Japan. At that time, Seki-sensei (my Beginner-teacher) had already went back to Japan to continue with her business (she’s a CEO of a IT solutions company at that time). So i had 5 teachers (Ms Bullet-train, Seki-sensei, 2 teachers from Japan, my senpai) during my 3rd year of taking Japanese (2008).Took my JLPT 2 and passed, which was why i had a very strong foundation in my JLPT 2 stuff. That same year at Sept 2008, i joined my ex-company as a IT helpdesk agent. My company sent me to Japan for 2 weeks to sit with 2 friendly uncles (50+ years old) to learn Business Japanese (how to answer phone calls, write emails,etc) from them. To me, it was really a good opportunity. Over time, i had came to understand how Japanese people work (the 本音 and 建前 at work), how efficient they are, etc. I was also fortunate that with the salary that i was drawing, i was able to go Japan very often. I also attended Bunka at that time to try out the Pre-Advanced class, but i didn’t continue after a few lessons, due to the standard of the class. But i must say, the teacher (Mizusaki-sensei) is very good.

Then 2009 was the year i took my N1. Yup, failed badly. (180+/400), but i retook it in 2010 , with the help of my online sensei from Japan. The week before i took my N1, i went to Japan to do my last minute revision studies. The exposure was really good for me, which was the reason that i score well for my listening.

Wow, such a long post. 2 hours to write, with all the memories.  So i guess with some calculation, you can calculate when i started teaching. (^_^)

In conclusion, what i want to say is, to all Japanese learners, including my student. Find your motivation, your drive to study Japanese. When the drive is there and the goal is firm, work towards that goal. Don’t let anything waver your thoughts. When you are tired in studying, take a break, go somewhere that you like with a friend, your loved ones and come back to study again.

一緒にがんばりましょう! =)


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