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.