Jessica Robinson / from America マサチューセッツ州
In the past seven months I have made more language discoveries that I’m even aware of. Japanese, Korean and Thai have been sneaking their way into my dreams at night and invading my thoughts during the day. It’s a transformation that I didn’t consciously make but one that comes with the nature of being in this language rich environment I call home. Of course when I first came to Japan it took all my energy to communicate in Japanese. It would often take someone 3 or 4 times to make me understand a question since my ears and brain hadn’t yet fully adjusted to my new environment. But as time went on, my ability to interpret what was being said became easier. Much different from when I studied Japanese in high school, I was able to catch the meaning of unfamiliar words without having to look up their definitions in a dictionary or asking for a translation. After hearing the same word used in various contexts I could understand the nuance and could surprisingly begin using it myself. At first I kept a record of new words I acquired in a notebook but eventually, the number of words I picked up in a day grew to such a number that I couldn’t keep up.
Of course, Japanese remains a daily challenge! Some days I struggle to say even the simplest of things when on other days I speak without even thinking. I am so lucky to have a truly wonderful support system of all ages and backgrounds at Hippo that help me out everyday. At work I learn how to use words related to organizing and planning, when at home I learn how to use words about monsters and superheroes from my 5-year-old twin siblings. Even when I can’t make full sentences correctly, the people around me continue to encourage me not by correcting my mistakes, but by nurturing discoveries. I now understand that the ability to speak a language does not come from one’s inner efforts alone, but mostly from the constant interaction with those around us.
When I first participated in Hippo activities, I was only concerned with acquiring Japanese. However, as time went on, I realized the joy in playing with the sounds of the various languages. I have lost the sense of shame that so commonly accompanies mistakes and replaced it with a sense of discovery instead. When I had the opportunity to travel to Thailand, my host family spoke a total of 7 languages, each person to their own varying degree. They made me realized how wonderful it is to be able to mix and match to play with daily speech. I used a combination of English, Thai, Japanese, and Italian not because it was necessary, but because it was fun and everyone could understand. I now have a greater appreciation for the variety in waves, sounds and rhythms of the spoken human language. Moreover, I came to realize how wonderful of a phenomenon it is that such a diversity of languages exists in our world.
Please don’t worry and enjoy your home stay! There’s no such thing as mistakes, only discoveries!