Language. I’ve always found it to be intriguing. I take a thought in my head, give it a phonetic form in the shape of words, organize those words into sentences and then I send it off into the world to be consumed and experienced. And then you, in this case the reader, take these black squiggles on a screen and somehow you derive meaning from it. Beautiful, isn’t it?
Forgive me if that started off somewhat abstractly. You see, I’ve come halfway around the world and now I can’t stop thinking about it. Simple things like buying snacks at a convenience store or asking someone where the bathroom is become seemingly insurmountable tasks when you’re asked to do it in another language—by yourself. It’s absolutely horrifying, believe me. But learning a foreign language is also thrilling and surprisingly rewarded. The other day, I got lunch at the cafeteria of the university where I work and after the meal I told one of the cafeteria workers, 「ごちそうさまでした。おいしかったですよ！」 which translates to, “Thank you for the meal. It was delicious!” Her face lit up at the sound of her native language coming out of a foreigner’s mouth and I walked around for the rest of the day with a sense of accomplishment.
I’ve been at this internship for three and a half days now and I’m already having the time of my life. At work, I talk with other college students and I help them with their English. Everyday it feels like I’m looking in a mirror; their English is just as bad as my Japanese, but somehow we get by. I love it. We sit in class and I ask the students questions like how old they are, what they do in their free time, or why they’re studying English. They respond as best as they can (with help from their classmates of course) and we have something that resembles a conversation. Then, class ends and now it’s my turn. They take me out to eat at a local restaurant and they teach me the essentials, like how to order food in Japanese and the proper way to eat udon with chopsticks. I’ve been learning just as much from them as they have from me.
I came to Japan to learn about another culture, practice my Japanese, and gain some experience working in education. I’ve only been here for half of a week but I can already see that it’s going to be so much more than that. I’m hoping to continue talking with the students that I teach, and hang out with them outside of the classroom. As they learn my language and I learn theirs, I might just make some friends that I’ll talk with for the rest of my life. And that would be really cool.