Chinese and Japanese

By Jonah Nguyen-Conyers

For as long as I can remember, learning Chinese has been a great love of mine. My involvement with Mandarin and Chinese culture has afforded me opportunities to explore more of the world. My Mandarin Chinese language journey helped me discover the enjoyment of learning a foreign language and the appreciation of the benefits of being able to converse in a language shared by 1.3 billion people. When I was first introduced to Chinese in the 1st grade, it was extremely difficult in the early years. Despite the initial hardship of learning such a complicated language, I was motivated to continue my studies out of a sincere desire to connect with people from the other side of the world in their own language!

The years devoted to learning Chinese really helped me find my love for languages and cultures, and would ultimately lead me to embrace the Japanese language and culture. As I have grown up with the skills to learn difficult languages, I find that my Japanese class has been easier than my Chinese classes. Each and every time I go to Japanese class, I am excited and ready to learn, knowing that I am building the language skills needed to connect to a whole nation of people who speak Japanese.

Although Japanese and Chinese are completely unique languages, there are some important similarities between the two that make studying a completely new language like Japanese a lot more manageable. Both languages rely on the memorizations of many characters, a skill that I have developed from my background in Chinese. The use of Kanji characters or Chinese characters would give me a head start, and provide me the opportunity to bridge my previous language knowledge with a new language that I embrace with eagerness. What I’ve learned about these Kanji characters are that they are written the same and have the same meaning most of the time, however are spoken differently to fit alongside the other alphabet pronunciation. I was intimidated with the nearly hundred characters that I would have to remember. It seemed intimidating as I knew that English only has twenty-six letters and, therefore, estimated it would be four times harder than English. Chinese gave me the ability to memorize characters and that skill really helped me in more ways than I had not anticipated.

My Japanese Plus class is taught in a different manner than what I am used to. The classroom environment seems more friendly and less pressure-filled than my Chinese classes. At Yu Ying and DCI, the Chinese language is taught in an immersion model where they exclusively speak only Chinese. Because my Japanese class is not conducted in an immersion model, my Japanese class environment is allowing the students to learn in a more stress-free manner as the teacher makes sure that studies are not so intensive and uses both English and Japanese in classroom instruction. Learning Japanese this way makes it more accessible and allows the students to build up their foundational language basics so that we can progress together as a class.

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