One, Dos, 三!行こう!

Johanna Jarvis, Class of ’27, is a Graphic Design major studying at Tamagawa University this Spring/Summer 2024.

My first attempt at tying an 帯(Obi) in Traditional Dance Class!

I thoroughly believe breaking language barriers is a beautiful thing to try because it can lead to new experiences with new people and new cultures. Whether this be by yourself in your free time or through a class, the overall benefit to learning another language is worth the effort! In my own experiences, learning another language seemed so fresh and brought so much curiosity to me. The first language I took on was a language requirement for school most have probably taken: Spanish. The fun part was learning new ways to say things, especially learning new grammar and words that aren’t really existent in the English vocabulary. Though it was hard to practice, I was inspired to keep going because it not only fueled my brain, but it felt like a gateway to another world– where I could understand so many more people. This could be from passing by on a random conversation to consuming new media, like music, leveling up to understanding the heart-throbbing lyrics of Romeo Santos/Aventura…

 I continued this passion from middle school through high school, and as the classes got more complex/complicated, I don’t think I could ever truly say I regretted taking those classes. We learned to incorporate our language learning into discussing political, social, and economic issues in Spanish-speaking countries, and learning about environmental issues, arts, and historical facts. To this day, I still practice communicating with online friends and my Spanish speaking (a whole other realm outside of academics..) while I learn an abundance of new things about South America through them and their lives.

Moving on to the present, my entire experience with learning Spanish was so positive, that I had the confidence to try and take on Japanese to prepare for our trip. This wasn’t an easy task since Japanese has three alphabets (Kanji, Katakana, and Hiragana) all outside of the Latin alphabet. Fortunately, my interest in Duolingo years prior helped me out a bit here and I knew most of Hiragana and Katakana. My biggest obstacles at the time, and still today while I’m here, are grammar, Kanji, and learning more vocabulary. Since I didn’t take a class, all my efforts were self-driven with a workbook I got from a friend- Genki. I highly recommend this workbook since it teaches the basics pretty well, and I learned verbs and basic sentence structure pretty easily.

Now that I’ve been in Japan a while, a big piece of advice to anyone considering learning the language of the place they’re studying in: gain CONFIDENCE and SOCIALIZE! These might be so hard to do, but the fun thing about studying abroad I’ve learned is that you can set up an entirely new persona and no one would know! When I was anxious about how others would perceive me here and how they treat me, I knew the best thing I could do was put my best foot forward, learn the cultural norms, and show my utmost respect by trying to communicate in their language rather than expect them to know mine. Though I can’t say I do it ALL the time while here, I try my best to be consistent through socializing. This has been through new friends, club activities, reading Japanese kids’ books, and presentations from my sit-in classes. 

My favorite encounter from learning so much and being able to communicate was with a new friend I made- まひろ(Mahiro) who does chorus, but also digitally draws just like me! I had a TIME switching from thinking about how to translate a sentence to having to pull up Google translate a few times. It overall just felt so nice to be able to communicate along and see your efforts take place in real time.

Kid’s Book Rendition I Drew!

If you’re considering studying abroad for some months, I highly recommend learning some of the language as some preparation before you go, even if the program doesn’t require it. Not only will you be more confident in navigating reading things for location and/or food, but you’ll be able to connect with locals as well– so you don’t feel as intimidated! Hope this inspires you to try something new! Until next time!

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