Youkoso! Welcome to the first “real” edition of Benkyou Blog. Gather ’round everyone, it’s story time. I’m going to tell you a little personal story about when I was a high school exchange student in Japan.
I am a very self-conscious person. I find I’m comparing myself to others often. So, when I and my fellow exchange students would get together for various functions, I was constantly comparing my Japanese to theirs. At first, I was proud of myself. I had the best pronunciation and least accent of anyone else in the group, and considering I’d had no formal Japanese education, I wasn’t half bad. Midway through our ten month stay, things were a little different.
I arrived at our little meeting for the Osaka exchange students and their host families expecting to be at the same level or even ahead of the others who had previously been struggling. Instead, I was unpleasantly surprised to find myself stuttering and using far less new vocabulary when we made our usual introductory, “how I’m doing” speeches. My confidence came crashing down, and only continued to crash as the day went on.
A few months later, we had yet another exchange student gathering. Since the previous meeting, I had gotten back up on my feet and studied madly to catch up. Sure, the period before the last meeting was plagued with culture shock and various other exchange student stresses, but I felt that was no excuse for being so far behind! So, despite my lack of confidence, I studied hard all through my summer vacation. While my classmates were out having a good time, I was spending hours a day practicing kanji and translating the lyrics to my favorite songs as practice. At that next meeting, I felt about even with everyone else. We had all seemed to level out, no matter what our previous Japanese exposure was or how fast we’d learned at the beginning. At the end of the day, we were all about the same.
The moral of the story? Don’t compare yourself to others!! If you know someone else studying Japanese, don’t expect to always be on the same page. You can use their efforts as a motivator, but never compare yourself because everyone learns new languages at different speeds. No two brains are exactly alike, right? So, no two people are going to study Japanese at the same pace. But, you’ll find in the end that you’ll end up on the same page. If you study hard, you’ll find yourself just as proficient. You may have to study more than someone else, or it may be more difficult for you, but don’t ever let that discourage you!
You’re headed to the same destination: proficiency in the Japanese language. Don’t follow in the path of another. Blaze your own trail and make it a good one!
Benkyou de ganbatte ne!