Learning French

French is my third language, after Japanese and English, that I have started learning when I was in 6th grade. This was because I used to live in a French-speaking region of Switzerland and I had difficulties communicating with the locals without any knowledge of French. This language acquisition continues to this day, even in High School and the DP program, teaching me not only French but also about language, communication, and culture. After a few years of learning French, I found out that French shared some similarities with English, which I am fluent in. For example, there are words that are really close to its actual English translation such as particulierment (particularly) and information (information) but with different pronunciations. Moreover, the grammar of the sentences and the order in which words are placed are very similar. However, I found differences as well such as the feminine and masculine words of French. As this idea of feminine and masculine words are not used in either Japanese or English, it was new and hard to get used to at the beginning.

Now that I can speak, write, read and understand French to an intermediate level I begun learning about its culture as well through ways such as watching French movies, reading French stories, learning about French traditions and idioms. These taught me a lot about what France, as a country, is like as well as its culture and how similar or different to the countries of which I speak its languages fluently. It was very interesting to learn and experience French culture because it was something that I was always interested in, as I have visited the country a few times when I used to live in Switzerland.

With this knowledge, I once tried to help a French-speaking tourist find her way in Tokyo. In the beginning, she asked me in English but she seemed to be lost a little, so I told her that I can speak a little bit of French. She then told me that she was looking for a train station and since I knew where she was talking about, I tried to tell her. However, I found it very difficult to teach her exactly where she needs to go because I was not very fluent or natural with French. So, in the end, I ended up using some English words as well as gestures to convey my thoughts to her. This was a valuable experience that made me realize that even though languages are important in communication with others, there are also other ways that we can communicate such as gestures and facial expressions. From this, I learned the importance of communication tools other than languages, teaching me how I can improve my communication with others in the future.

Playing the Violin

Playing the violin is something I have started when I was young and continue to this day. Outside of the school, I take lessons with a teacher where we have a concert every year, and at school, I am a part of a string ensemble called the Tanner Ensemble. Moreover, I was part of an orchestra that played in the High School graduation ceremony. When playing individually at my lessons outside of the school, I try to interpret the songs by myself and try to play so that the notes from my violin stands out. This

is especially important when I play in the annual concerts that we have because I have to be careful so that I would be in synch with the background piano but also stand out at the same time. However, this is completely different when I play with others in an orchestra because then, I have to play so that I do not stand out compared to others and listen carefully to the melody of other instruments. I also feel like I have to follow the music sheet more closely with the dynamics, tempo, and pitch because we have to play as one. Even with these difficulties, I really like it when different instruments and different parts of the orchestra harmonizes together to create a new sound.

From these practices, I learned many skills such as the skill to adapt accordingly to the environment as well as collaboration and social skills. For example, I learned the skill to adapt accordingly to the environment because I had to change my play style depending on whether I was playing by myself or as part of an orchestra. This learning can be used in other areas of my life such switching from classes to outside classes. When I am in class, I need to make sure to listen to teachers and my peers and behave in a way that is appropriate for school. However, if I am outside of school with my friends, I can have more fun and act, however, I want to. The other skills that I developed, which are my collaboration and social skills, were mainly from my experiences playing as a part of an orchestra. Whenever I am playing with an orchestra I need to work effectively with others and listen carefully to their sound as well so that I can synchronize with them. Moreover, even when we are not playing, being in an orchestra taught me the importance of respect and engaging well with others. All these knowledge that I gained is transferable anywhere in my life, like friends, family, school, and workplace. Therefore, playing the violin not only improved my music skills but also taught me to become more adaptable to the environment and to work collaboratively with others.

Is the Use of E-Cigarettes the Solution to the Tobacco Epidemic?

         The tobacco epidemic is a major issue that our current society faces with 1.1 billion smokers worldwide and 7 million deaths caused by them every year (World Health Organization). However, its detrimental consequences are not only to the human health, as is usually believed but also to other social factors such as the environment.

         In terms of effects to the human health, several toxins in cigarettes such as nicotine, tar, and hydrogen cyanide are inhaled when smoking, causing damage to the lungs and the muscles used for respiration. According to Bakshi, nicotine causes tobacco users to become addicted to smoking, tar contains carcinogen benzo(a)pyrene that stains the lung tissues, and hydrogen cyanide poisons the lungs by paralyzing the cilia in the lungs, which cleans it up by removing foreign substances. This results in irritation in the larynx and the trachea, causing coughing with phlegm as well as emphysema and lung cancer.

         Environmentally, the effect of tobacco can be seen its process of growing, manufacturing and consuming. To begin with, harmful chemicals such as pesticides and fertilizers are used during its production, draining the soil of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus more than other major crops (Lecours). Moreover, cigarettes butts are “the most commonly discarded piece of waste globally” (Novotny) because they contain harmful chemicals such as nicotine and arsenic. This damages the whole food chain by contaminating the aquatic environment, soil and even our drinking water (Eriksen).

         To combat these problems created by tobacco, e-cigarettes were invented in 2003. Some organizations such as British Medical Association claims that e-cigarettes are positive alternatives to cigarettes because they are less harmful to the health (Bauld). As Bullez states, “overall, e-cigarettes contain fewer numbers and lower levels of toxicants” than tobacco such as the lack of tar, preventing lungs from getting stained. However, e-cigarettes are not harmless either because it exposes the lungs to various toxins in the liquid, as well as the ones that are produced through consumption. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, e-cigarettes not only contain nicotine but also metal, including nickel, and cadmium, “that causes breathing problems and diseases”. Furthermore, they can also cause lung inflammation, which could affect the respiratory system negatively by making breathing harder (Rutland). In terms of the environment, e-cigarettes emit no carbon dioxide during consumption, as it is not burned, and create less litter because they are not thrown away every time. However, discarded e-cigarettes contain nicotine that is environmentally detrimental and the metal parts of it are toxic heavy metals, meaning that it cannot be recycled or disposed of (Holding).

         Based on this evaluation, I believe that e-cigarettes are better alternatives to cigarettes because there are some benefits of using e-cigarettes and some prestigious organizations such as British Medical Association and some studies prove them to be less harmful to both the health and the environment. However, I do not think that it is a solution to tobacco because there are almost as many drawbacks to it as there are for tobacco and some social factors like economic were not considered here that could prove e-cigarettes to be more detrimental. Therefore, while I cannot be certain, I feel that more improvements on health issues must be made in order to make e-cigarettes the solution to tobacco epidemic.


Works Cited

Bakshi, Richa. “How Does Smoking And Tobacco Use Affect The Human Body?” Healthians Blog, Healthians Blog, 9 Feb. 2018, blog.healthians.com/how-does-smoking-tobacco-use-affect-the-human-body/.

Bauld, Linda. “The Evidence Keeps Piling up: e-Cigarettes Are Definitely Safer than Smoking.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 29 Dec. 2017, www.theguardian.com/science/sifting-the-evidence/2017/dec/29/e-cigarettes-vaping-safer-than-smoking.

Eriksen, Marcus, et al. “Microplastic Pollution in the Surface Waters of the Laurentian Great Lakes.” Egyptian Journal of Medical Human Genetics, Elsevier, 25 Oct. 2013, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025326X13006097.

Holding, Carol Pierson. “E-Cigarettes Put the Environment at Risk.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 7 Dec. 2017, www.huffingtonpost.com/carol-pierson-holding/ecigarettes-put-the-envir_b_7108124.html.

Lecours, N, et al. “Environmental Health Impacts of Tobacco Farming: a Review of the Literature.” Advances in Pediatrics., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Mar. 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22345244.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Electronic Cigarettes (E-Cigarettes).” NIDA, USA Government, www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/electronic-cigarettes-e-cigarettes.

Novotny, Thomas E, et al. “The Environmental and Health Impacts of Tobacco Agriculture, Cigarette Manufacture and Consumption.” Advances in Pediatrics., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Dec. 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4669730/.

Spector. “E-Cigarettes: The Health Risks of Vaping.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, www.nbcnews.com/better/health/better-cigarettes-vaping-comes-its-own-set-health-risks-ncna819716.

“Tobacco.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/tobacco.

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