GCD: Multilingualism

After 1st grade, my parents decided to move me from an International school to a local Japanese school, without any knowledge of how to speak Japanese.

I knew the basics, such as “Hello”, “Good morning”, “How are you”, and “Sorry, I can’t speak Japanese”, however, of course, this was significantly not enough for me to express myself like I would usually do. Henceforth, it was a very difficult time for me as I could not communicate with my peers, or understand what was being taught in the classroom. Although I was practically forced to learn this language, through 2nd to 8th grade my fluency has substantially increased and as a result, I am currently in the Japanese native class.

At my Japanese school, whenever we had English class the teachers would rely on me to translate, as our native English teachers could not speak Japanese. Whenever the teacher did not know how to say something, they would tell me in English and I would translate in Japanese to my class, almost like a teacher’s assistant. English was one of my favorite subjects in school because other than having an advantage to speak fluently, I was able to build a bridge between my peers and teachers where they could communicate freely.

In my opinion, I have noticed that how English is taught in Japanese schools is quite flawed. Most of the English is taught through a textbook, with every lesson containing a different scenario and passage. Vocabulary is strongly emphasized when teaching, therefore, students learn around 15 new words and phrases in one lesson. Grammar is taught through the passage, however, students tend to only copy the sentence without actually learning thoroughly how the grammar works. On top of that, the teachers mostly speak in Japanese despite it being an English class. This results in students remembering certain phrases that is not usually used, such as “This is an eraser!” or “That is a handout!” rather than understanding how to apply it when actually speaking English. I believe that it would be much more effective to expose students to foreign music, movies, and actual positions where they are expected to use English to understand how English is actually spoken, as I found it interesting that the English in the textbooks are not really how we speak it. Being multilingual has taught me how immersing yourself in the language with better material such as movies, books, music, or TV shows can have a bigger impact, and even making the process more fun.

Being multilingual has also taught me how to adapt to different environments when speaking these languages. I have been able to gain an understanding of how there is a difference in the ways we communicate based on the language. English is more casual and friendly to whoever you are speaking to, while formality and politeness is essential to speaking Japanese. I find myself sometimes changing the way I act when switching between English and Japanese. These core elements in these two languages helped me understand the English and Japanese society even further, as I have noticed that language reflects on the specific culture. When speaking English, I can joke around with whoever I want to, while speaking Japanese, I am more self-reserved and polite. Learning these two languages have provided me a wider perspective on not only how we speak, but also how we should behave as well.

As a multilingual, I have had the opportunity to engage and express myself with many people in different ways to build strong relationships and become more flexible when communicating. I am grateful that I have fluency in these languages, and am interested in learning even more to have an even broader perspective of different cultures.

GCD: Wilderness Engagement

YIS Expeditions

During October, our grade went on a 5-day hiking trip to Niigata, which is the longest I have ever been away from my home and parents on a school trip. Through Tuesday to Thursday, we had a 3 day overnight hike up in the mountains. During the trip, I learned how to set up tents for the first time. As there were a limited amount of teachers, my group and I had to understand the structure of how tents are built and while we did struggle, we were able to do it by deciding on everyone’s role. I also learned how tiring hiking for hours is. Although I have hiked before, I think everyone can agree when I say that the hike itself was very challenging. We carried heavy bags, hiked through steep hills with limited breaks in an unfamiliar environment. Although it was challenging, I was able to experience the satisfaction of having your hard work paid off as we took our last step to the top of the mountain.

From this trip, we learned about these basic camping skill, however, most importantly we learned about ourselves. Through this experience, I learned and developed self-reliance as we decided our own route in the mountains and made our own decisions, we looked after ourselves and our bodies, we carried our own food, clothes and equipment which would usually be provided for us. During the trip, we had to be responsible and make our own decisions, and while I do have those opportunities at home, we were exposed to situations that I have not experienced before, for example setting up the tents or the extremely cold weather. I learned how to be dependent during these moments.

This experience changed me because I learned about what it means to rely on yourself and to be in control. As I just moved into high school, and soon, college, self-reliance is an important skill that we must develop as we become more independent. The skills that I have learned from this experience will help me in the future, as we have to take responsibility. In addition, I was able to build relationships with my peers as we helped each other out through the steep hills.

I also learned the benefits of being exposed to nature, as we were away from civilization and our smartphones which really helped clear my mind and focus on myself. It felt satisfying to not have my next assignment on my mind or my plan for tomorrow. While we were hiking, my legs were just moving while my mind had wandered, which is not an experience that I can get often at home. While I knew nature is a really good stress reliever tool, I never really had the chance to experience wilderness in this way and the benefits it has on your mental health. While the cold and bugs did not really excite me, I learned that sometimes I should maybe take a walk or go to the park and acknowledge nature more.

Through wilderness engagement, I was able to develop skills that would be useful in the future, whilst also building relationships with my peers and learned to appreciate nature more. Although I gained a lot out of the trip, I probably would not go through the same plan that we went through, and instead maybe decide on my own route and plan instead, as I felt rushed and could not fully take in the environment around me. Overall, I am grateful that I had the opportunity to go on the trip to have the time to reflect on this topic and also all the relationships I was able to build.

Expeditions 2017 Reflection

  1. What did you learn about yourself?

I learned that during hard times like the tiring parts of the hike, I pushed myself and although it was very difficult at some times, I tried to keep my pace and didn’t give up so I learned that even though at sometimes I do think negatively, I am able to keep going and push myself. I also learned that nature really helped with clearing my mind and relaxing so I should sometimes take a break from technology and just take in the environment around me.

2. Describe the challenges you faced and the ways you challenged yourself.

The challenges were, of course, the difficult parts of the hike, but keeping a positive mindset really helped to face those challenges. And my group really challenged ourselves because we decided to take the trail instead of the road, and everyone helped each other especially Connor, our team leader who helped keep the atmosphere very fun.

3. How did you develop self-reliance?

I think just everything really related to self-reliance because we were sleeping in tents in freezing weather in a really different environment that we are not so familiar with so you’re making your own decisions and looking after yourself especially without all the clean showers and technology that is a big part of our lives. The hike also helped as well because we were carrying our own food and bed where usually it would be provided for us but this time we were in control of those things.

4. What would you do differently next time?

I think next time I would try to talk to people I don’t usually talk to that much, because although I did share a few things I just didn’t really feel a very strong community so I think not only in the next expeditions but even just throughout the school year, I want to be able to get out of my comfort zone and build stronger relationships.

5. Describe your role in the community of the expedition and your connection with the YIS community.

I think my role in the community was offering support to others because during the expeditions I helped people carry their stuff or just volunteered to do things that helped the others.  And as well in the YIS community I try to keep an open mind and be flexible so that I am able to support other people and build a very strong community.

I&S – Psychology: Nature vs Nurture

Is our behavior determined by genes, or environment? Physical characteristics are generally based on inheritance, however we cannot say that it is the same for how we act. The nature vs nurture debate is the discussion whether our behavior and actions is either inherited through genetics, or if they are influenced by our surrounding environment. I believe that although genetics are the basis, they could easily be altered by how someone was raised, society, and culture.

Example: Recently, I have found that there are ‘intelligent genes’ and that you can inherit you’re parents smartness. If a man was successful because he was hardworking and intelligent, the child has the potential to be just as hardworking or intelligent based on these ‘intelligence genes’. However if the child was raised in a spoiled environment, the child may not reach that potential, as the child was spoiled and did not get educated like the parent. On the other hand, a child can be better at math than their parent if they studied hard. Although genetic makeup is a big part of who we are, a child’s upbringing can easily influence the outcome.

We learned that in a Cambridge experiment, adults and babies were placed in a room with gender-typed toys, to study if the adults would choose the toy to play with depending on the baby’s gender. All adults chose according to gender stereotypes (girls like dolls, boys like cars). This suggested that parent’s impose these gender stereotypes on their children. However, in a Hines experiment, they placed gender-typed toys with monkeys to see how the nature will react. The females were interested in the baby dolls, while the males were interested in the cars. This is because biologically, females tend to be more nurturing due to being fertile therefore they would choose the baby doll, while males are naturally more masculine and were interested in the toy that moves. I agree more with the Hines study, that the reason girls tend to like girly toys and boys tend to like boyish toys is due to instinct however, parents do tend to force these ‘stereotypes’ on their children because that is the norm in society.

Hereditary plays a big part in how we behave, however they do not determine everything. Some kids come from musical parents and become musicians as well, however if the child did not sing or play any instruments, they will not become a musician just because ‘it’s in their genes’.