Guessing my nationality, is something which I’m pretty sure no one has ever done correctly. Being one of the most third-culture kids people have ever met, I have grown quite used to it. To explain my background and the languages I speak is definitely more complicated than one would assume. Being born in Japan and having learnt the language since a very young age, I am now happy to say that I can consider myself a fluent every-day speaker. I am doing very well in my Japanese B SL class, and love the convenience of being able to speak the language of the country I live in. However, when most people see me they guess half Japanese. This makes sense since the majority of “halfies” (a term used to describe someone who is half Asian and half Caucasian) in Japan are American and Japanese. But my mother is actually from Hong Kong. This gets even more confusing when people assume I can speak Cantonese or Mandarin. However due to my upbringing in Japan, my Japanese happens to be a significantly higher level than either of these languages.
When I lived in Australia for three years during high school, my Japanese was appreciated even more. The language level in Australian high schools is significantly lower than in Japanese International Schools, and all my peers regarded me as some sort of linguistic genius in French and Japanese. I took French in ISSH (Japan school) for three years, however the course was so intense that when I went to my school in Sydney I was way above everyones level. My ability to speak every day french and use past and future tense was apparently way ahead of their curriculum, which was still focused on the basics like colours and numbers.
I am very lucky to have been brought up in such a multi-lingual environment. Hearing Japanese, Mandarin, French, English around me from a young age have made my ability to pick up foreign languages much better. I believe that going to an international school opens you up to more languages, as with such a multi-cultural community and environment you learn to accept others cultures and pick up a few phrases from them.
Appreciating different cultures and languages has made me able to take the best parts of each and combine them into myself. The politeness of the Japanese society and language is entrenched in my personality just as the spirit and humour of Australians is. Being able to communicate and pick up foreign languages is a valuable skill for the future, and will allow me to be comfortable no matter what country I go to.