I’m bilingual. It’s something that I am very proud of because I love the Japanese language and I have spent the last 15 years studying by myself. My motivation to start studying Japanese is and was a strong, inner feeling that I would be moving to Japan some day.
Honestly, I love telling people my story about how and why I learned the Japanese language. My goal is to inspire more people to learn Japanese or some other language. I especially want to inspire more Americans to learn another language because most of us only speak English. The obstacle that tends to come between me and my desire to inspire is that a lot of American people seem to think that they don’t need to or can’t learn another language. The typical responses I get are:
- “I’m too old to pick up a second language”
- “English is the universal language, so I don’t need to learn anything else”
- “I don’t have time to learn another language”
They’ll often attribute my Japanese fluency to the fact that I started learning when I was a child. I try not to take it personal, but it’s a load of crap! Sure, I started studying Japanese as a child and that has contributed somewhat to my current degree of fluency, but if I had been an adult when I started learning, I would know much more than I do now. Learning by myself as a child was hard and I spent the first 5-9 years speaking incorrectly. I didn’t learn to read Japanese until my 4th or 5th year and I still struggle to use proper grammar.
The point that I’m trying to make is that there are benefits to learning a new language as an adult, just like there are benefits to learning as a child. There’s no such thing as being “too old” to learn something new, especially a language, and while you may not feel the need to know a language besides English, you should know the benefits that you’re missing out on.
Being Able to Communicate With More People
Newsflash! Many people can communicate basic (or situationally relevant) information in English, but this does not mean that they have a high-level of English comprehension skills! I’ll use Japan as an example. There are a lot of people in Japan who can communicate things like “thank you”, “please sit at this table, and “that train over there”, but they are unable to hold a conversation in English. You could go to Japan and get around without speaking Japanese, but you’d only experience Japan at its surface-level.
That’s one of the benefits of learning more than one language. Since I speak Japanese, I’ve been able to make friends with Japanese people and they’ve introduced me to cool Japanese places, foods, and traditions that I wouldn’t have known about. I have also been able to positively impact more people by having the ability to communicate with them. Not to mention, in the case of an emergency, I don’t have to worry about understanding or being able to explain what’s going on.
I hope that you decide to pick up another language this year. There are 5 months left in 2019 and that’s enough time to get to an upper-beginner level in many languages! If you’d like to learn some Japanese before the 2020 Tokyo, check out my classes on Skillshare. If you sign up using my affiliate link, you’ll get two months of FREE premium membership.