Take the challenge: Learning Japanese language
Take the challenge: Learning Japanese language
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  • 승인 2006.11.11 00:00
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▲ Baek Seol, Senior, Dept. of English

Nobody expected that I would go to Japan as an exchange student. I'm majoring in English Language and Literature, so I had no particular reason to go to Japan to study. Even now, my friends and acquaintances ask me: 'Why did you go to Japan? Isn't English your major?' Of course, I did not want to go to improve my English skills, but what I learned was that I could quickly take command of the Japanese language.

When I decided to go to Japan as an exchange student, I couldn't speak Japanese at all. I couldn't even read the Japanese characters known as Hiragana. I was familiar with Chinese characters, however, so I could understand the meaning of similar script in the Japanese language. As a result, I reached Japanese level 2 on the placement test I took in Japan.

If you are not good at English and disappointed with your progress, then I recommend you study Japanese. You could regain a lot of confidence. You might be surprised by the fact that you are really good at learning a foreign language. At first in Japan, I felt stressed by the challenge of having to speak the new language. I could not arrange basic things for myself through simple conversations, and no one seemed to care. This was because I didn't look like a foreigner, but I found that basically Japanese people are actually very kind to foreigners.

When I used bad Japanese language at the post office, train station, or wherever, they looked at me strangely as if they didn't understand me. I often would say "I'm from Korea. Sorry, I'm not good at Japanese." They soon became interested in me, and would ask questions like: "Are you traveling or studying here?" or "How did you learn to speak Japanese so well? or Do you know Yon-sama? or Is he popular in Korea as in Japan?" I realized that any Korean could study Japanese as a foreign language, and you probably ought to do so, too.

Most of the people whom I met in Japan told me that it is natural for Koreans to speak Japanese fluently. There are some reasons for this opinion. First, Japanese grammar is almost the same as Korean grammar. Second, the Japanese way of thinking is quite similar to the Korean way. Third, a great number of words in both languages are borrowed from Chinese. Fourth, Korean people, especially those living in the Gyeongsang provinces, have a similar intonation to the Japanese accent. Due to these factors, I was able to reach Level 4 within six months. Compared to other foreign students from America, Sweden, and Australia, it was an astonishingly rapid growth in Japanese language ability. It was not because I am superior to them in any way, but rather, it was because my native language assisted me in learning a new one.

Indonesian and Swedish people become naturally fluent in two languages when they are young. I firmly believe any Korean can easily learn Japanese without much difficulty. Let's take the challenge!

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