I was born in Japan, and Japanese is my first language. When I became an elementary student, I was enrolled in an international school, and that was my start to learning English.
Before I enrolled in the school, I had almost no prior knowledge of English. I remember studying English at ‘Kumon’, but I only studied simple dialogues — and the matters of being able to speak English and being able to read English were different. This meant that I had to be in a community of English without not knowing any English. If I had to go through the experience right now, I would probably feel really nervous, but as a child, I only felt excited without any worry nor anxiety about joining a new community.
It wasn’t only I who couldn’t speak English. The majority of the students didn’t know any English at the start. As we listened to songs, read books, and studied writing, my English improved drastically. After a year, I was able to speak English to an extent that I could have everyday conversations with people.
I moved to China when I was in third grade, and I also went to an international school there. I really was able to improve on my English there, because in my grade, the only Japanese person was me, so no one else in the school could speak Japanese. Because of this, the only way I could talk to people was through English. This urged me to participate more during class so that I could improve on speaking. I studied Japanese at home, so I didn’t lose my Japanese through this experience, which I am grateful for.
After moving back to Japan from China in seventh grade, I joined YIS. At this moment, I think that I am a fluent English speaker, but I am still making constant efforts to improve my oral and writing skill.
Being able to speak English has widened my scope greatly. I wouldn’t be able to understand all the news and information that I can access to if it weren’t for English. There are lots of cultural differences between Japan and other countries. If I didn’t know English and didn’t know what communities outside of the Japanese community looked like, I can’t imagine how limited my knowledge and understanding of the world would have been.
Having the ability to speak English is very useful. It is a language that is used globally, and when I go to countries outside of Japan, if I am able to speak English, I can communicate without any translating devices most of the times. When I went to Hawaii this summer with my family, I was able to translate for my family, so things like ordering food and checking in the hotel went very smoothly. It felt satisfying to be able to apply the skill that I have been working on for a long time in real life situations.
I am fortunate to be able to speak multiple languages, but I also want to learn more languages. I especially want to learn how to speak Chinese. During the four-and-a-half years of living in China, I learned some Chinese, but I had forgotten most of it. Additionally, my father is Chinese (he can speak Japanese) and my grandparents from my father’s side cannot speak Japanese nor English. If I am able to speak Chinese, I can communicate with them more fluently without language barriers, and it would be definitely more fun to go visit them.
I think that learning a new language means that I am able to know and join a whole new community. Being bilingual has enabled me to join both the Japanese community and the English community, and I really appreciate my learning for this.