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   Student Writing
    (March 23, 2002 )


This essay, written by a Grade 10 English student, explores the many differences between his own language, Chinese, and Japanese, the language he is trying to learn. Perry uses many specific and interesting examples to make his points clear. See the original assignment here.


Learning Japanese
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 language.

     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.

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