By Perry Chong
Learning a foreign language is not an easy thing.
The difficulties commonly encountered by language learners are
pronunciation, gripping the meanings of vocabularies correctly, and
learning a different culture for enhancing reading comprehension.
The most difficult thing for me in learning Japanese
is the pronunciation. I couldn’t even correctly pronounce some words with
“su” “ryu” “nya” “nyu” after I had been learning Japanese for more than
three years. Sometimes my incorrect pronunciation made native speakers
misunderstand me. In Japanese, “R” is pronounced like “L” in English. That
confused me for several months. That is why many Japanese people read the
English words “right” and “light” incorrectly with the same pronunciation.
Spending much time to practice the pronunciation of a foreign language is
very helpful for being understood well by the people who speak that
Gripping the meanings of vocabularies correctly is
also an important thing in learning Japanese. As a Chinese person, I
didn’t think that I would have much trouble with learning Japanese KANJI.
Though KANJI, or say Chinese characters, were originally introduced from
China and most Japanese KANJI keep the same meaning with Chinese, there
are still some KANJI are different from Chinese characters in meaning. For
example, a KANJI read as “tegami” in Japanese, but read as “shouzhi” in
Chinese, means “letter” in Japanese but “toilet paper” in Chinese. Another
example is a KANJI read as “kisya” in Japanese, “qiche” in Chinese, means
“steam engine” in Japanese but “automobile” in Chinese. It is interesting,
isn’t it? Grasping the exact meaning of words is necessary when you learn
a foreign language even if sometimes you may infer the meaning of words
from the context in your quick reading.
Studying something about Japanese culture helped me
mastering Japanese language better. In many cases, Japanese use KEIGO,
honorifics, to express their respect for other people. For instance, when
a person mentioned himself, he says “boku” to his friends, “watashi” to
his boss or senior people, and “watakushi” in formal cases to express his
respect for the audiences. Japanese say “itadakimasu” before eating their
meals to express thanks to all people who have done something for getting
the meals ready for eating. There seem no exact words to translate
“itadakimasu” simply in both English and Chinese. Generally, Japanese
consider other party’s feeling when they ask questions. “Don’t you go
shopping with me?” a person asks you this way when he has guessed that you
are not willing to go with him. You can answer “yes” simply by affirming
his question to show that you really don’t want to go with him without
awkwardness. Being different from Japanese, in English, you should say
“no” to negate the action.
Pronouncing correctly, gripping the meanings of
vocabularies, and learning a different culture are the essentials for
mastering a foreign language.