LIJ Episode Lives

Language Learning

Have you ever tried to learn a foreign language? If English is not your mother tongue and you’re reading this — congratulations!! That’s a major accomplishment! Learning another language broadens a person’s perspective more than perhaps just about anything else out there. And there’s nothing easy about it.

It took me about a year of full-time study of the Portuguese language before I had enough of a foundation to learn the rest by studying and using it on my own. The more I immersed myself in Portuguese with Brazilian friends, the better I did in Portuguese. When I moved to Japan I knew I was in for the same thing — only greater.

But that “greater” was even bigger than I thought. Coming from English, a language that is a mix of romantic, Germanic and Scandinavian languages, there was little in common. Kanji is new. The grammar is completely different. Verb tenses are different. Pronunciation is miles apart from English. Even English words, when used in Japanese, can take on a completely different sound. (How about “Kurisumasu” or “Sutahbukusu?” — Christmas and Starbucks!)

But as with anything, if you keep at it and never give up, even if the progress is little, there is progress. Future gains become bigger and bigger, and when things click into place, other things follow behind in a quicker fashion. This is the curve of learning any new skill. Lots of effort with little to show. But keep at it long enough and the curve turns around and with less effort, greater strides are made. That gets you to an intermediate level, where the curve begins all over again.

So if you’re working on a new skill — whether it’s learning a language, an instrument, a new skill or even starting to learn the Bible or a new culture — keep at it! Before you know it, you’re going to hit that curve that propels you to an intermediate level and be so glad you did.

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