I am proud of the fact that this post is only the second “rant” on my blog since I started it. There are always going to be naysayers so I try to keep my blog positive as a motivation. But sometimes, you just gotta let your feelings out. This particular rant is triggered by a conversation I had with my younger brother. He’s someone who I actually look up to despite being a year younger than me. When he says something negative it usually affects me more than if some random Joe would have said it. And this time our conversation revolved around the language I’ve been learning for close to a year now.
So my brother was driving me to a picnic last weekend and on the way there we were playfully poking fun at eachother as all siblings do. I began to say random phrases in Japanese since this usually annoys him and he in turn comes back with something that annoys me. On this particular day, however, the tone in his voice became serious as he asked me “Why are you so obsessed with Japan? Why the heck are you even learning Japanese? It’s something so far from what we are. Why would you do it?” I calmly explained that first of all, he knew that I always was interested in learning about different cultures. And I’d always wanted to learn a third language eventually. His response? “Yeah well why didn’t you pick up Portuguese or something. I don’t know, anything that is close to our language and culture”.
It made me think. Why is being interested in Asian culture always looked at as obsessive? I wouldn’t call myself obsessed. I have truly always been interested in different languages and I picked one that I knew little to nothing about as a challenge. Learning a romance language after being fluent in Spanish is really no biggie. But learning a whole different language and writing system? That is something. When learning a language you have to surround yourself in its culture. Listen to music, watch television and learn about its culture. And why do some people get so offended about the fact that you are learning about something different than the norm? I really couldn’t understand where he was coming from.
Of course, some folks do go overboard. I don’t want to define what going overboard means to me, since I really don’t want to offend anyone. As I’m still learning about the Japanese culture I am also learning more about those who are learning Japanese. But my impression of my brother’s thoughts were that we are all obsessive freaks. Learning about Japan so much can’t be anything less than an obsession.
Regardless of what anybody says or thinks, I will continue to learn this language. I just wanted to let these thoughts out. I’m sure its a common occurrence with many of us learning Japanese. We have to face criticisms from our family and friends who may know nothing about Japan and hold their own prejudices. My strategy has been to teach them little by little as I go along. To break stereotypes and make them more familiar with a country half way around the world. As a result, even when my brother does something so ignorant as mimic the sounds coming out of my mouth, he sounds much more Japanese when he does it now. Small victory at least 🙂
Thank you for listening to my rant!