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 in my current International school. I am able to write commentaries, creative pieces, and read Japanese novels
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 the advantage to understand fluently, I was able to build a bridge between my peers and teachers where they could communicate freely.
Currently, as my mom cannot speak Japanese fluently, I frequently translate for my mom whenever she has trouble communicating with others. This includes speaking on the phone to companies, explaining her situation to doctors, and helping her read a restaurant menu.
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 are essential to speaking Japanese. I find myself sometimes changing the way I carry myself 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 recognized 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 polite and self-reseved. 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.