Intercultural Communication

Every day, people all around the world use language, often their mother tongue, to help them communicate and socialize with others. Being able to do so helps us get through our day to day life. With there being roughly around 6,500 languages spoken in our world today, the possibility of learning new languages is wide.
Before I moved to Japan, I really didn’t get much chance to interact with people from the other parts of the world. Mainly because where I come from, everyone I knew came from the same place, share the same culture, and all spoke in our mother tongue, Malay.
However, in school, it was mandatory for everyone to take both Malay and English as a subject in school. Therefore growing up, I was able to learn both languages and speak both languages fluently. But again, because everyone around me came from the same place, and we all spoke better in our mother tongue, I didn’t see the importance of speaking in English outside of English class. Not until I moved to Japan and came to an international school where I was suddenly surrounded by people from all over the world who speak different languages but can all bond together through one language, which is English. I soon realized the importance of being bilingual. But because I rarely converse in English, I realized how rusty my English social skills were. Therefore, for the first few months, I struggled to keep up. But over time, through my studies and the time I spent with people around the school, I was able to improve my English and communicate with others in English effectively. Up until today, this is still something I strive to improve on so that I can become more confident at speaking with others in English.
This was not the only intercultural communication experience I’ve had. Another experience I have is also the experience I gained during my time living here in Japan. I learned that Japanese people are very proud of their language and culture. Moreover, many locals don’t speak English. Therefore, whenever I step outside of my school compound or my house, I realized that conversing with the locals in languages I’m fluent in and gestures are not enough at times won’t help me at all. This led me to step out of my comfort zone and take risks by applying the skills I learned in my Japanese class. I push myself to always speak in Japanese to the locals whenever I get the opportunity to do so. Some examples of when I do this is: asking for directions, ordering food, helping my family members with something they need translation with and even helping some locals I met. Realizing the need of me to speak in a language I am not fluent at motivates me to focus in class and pay special attention to any phrases that would help me when traveling around Japan. Doing this shows me how important learning and communicating in different languages are and how with just a few simple phrases, it can help me tremendously with what I am doing. On top of the different phrases I learned, I also learned about the different gestures like bowing to show respect to one another. From all these experiences and opportunities I’ve had, I will look back at these moments and use it as one of my motivations to keep learning new languages.