Here is the case, I have been learning in the University of Tokyo for the last 3 months, together with the other Japanese students in Japanese (except English classes though). There were days when I literally felt overwhelmed with how fast the class go (relative to my velocity) since honestly it is not pretty easy to follow the reading with my acquired Japanese language level. Following up the teacher’s explanation is not hard and mostly doable. Even most of Sensei (professor) will answer your question with great care when you ask them during the small 5 minutes break or end of the lecture. However, reading the textbook is a whole next level of the story.
Today, I believe I was lucky enough to be able to listen my friend’s complain about her university life. She is also a freshman this year, mostly same condition and setting with me in Tokyo University of Science. Here, I want to write down some important reversed reflection that makes me realize something form my struggle (read: complains).
“I cannot believe this, I cannot even swallow this Entropy chapter within 2 hours” – me, today
To be fair, this kind of negative thinking also applies to other subject such as Calculus which I love so much. But then when I hear the similar toned story from her about her struggle in learning in Japanese, I then realize that actually this kind of problem is not only me-only-getting-dumber problem but a pretty common problem. Surged instantly after the quoted complaint above, the normal grumbling would follow by: “Oh dude, things would work easier in an English-speaking education system or country. This class is killing me and my time. I believe I could learn more in English textbooks than this Japanese one.” Or shortly said, “the system is (and not ‘I am’) failing me.” But today I learned that somebody could say this to me.
You know what, you are blessed to have a Japanese language education one full year in Tokyo University of Foreign Studies with the best Japanese teacher and education system, literally the fastest and might be the best over the world. You are equipped with the basic armory to tackle the Japanese in Japanese textbooks, class, or society. Of course, there exist a vast room for development and learning. It is said that people change in two ways: learning or decaying – meaning it is you who decide whether you want to stick with your currently acquired Japanese level and keep stuck when you read Japanese textbooks OR keep learning, open my dictionary, and continue the evolution process. Apparently, my brain should work relatively more compared to my Japanese friends. But hey, it is awesome to learn Calculus or Classical Mechanics in a language you have only learned for 1 year.
Well, let’s be honest, I cannot change the system and the fact that I learn in Japanese is inevitable. But I am learning it in a good research university, UTokyo, a kind of university I always have been dreaming for since my childhood (I mean the research university kind, not the language setting). But actually it is better for me to learn something in Japanese now, since my favorite field about Spintronics in Semiconductor Engineering is one of the fields Japanese are excel in. Even in this summer holiday I already made an appointment to hold a lab experiment about observation of photo-luminescence in GaAs-AlGaAs semiconductor with one of the leading professors in Spintronics. I also have many more interesting lectures like Introduction to Nanophysics and Electronics, UTokyo-MIT joint lecture in Materials, and other lectures that would have been an impossibility back in my country’s curriculum and research facility.
In addition to more learning opportunity, I could also have an access to more biographies, wise stories, and novels from a country that is rich in culture and scientific advancement! Basically I would like to fill my summer holiday by learning my favorite subjects and reading Japanese biographies of Leona Esaki (inventor of Esaki Diode) and Shinichiro Tomonaga (quantum electrodynamics influential sensei).
The Next Stratagem
I would like to learn Japanese more by this summer holiday by reading the books and diving into the Japanese conversation whenever I can. I will read the Japanese textbooks even though it might be hard to understand it in the first place but I will train my brain. I know I am going to be in a pretty hellish condition, left in an echoing room, that keeps persuading me: “you are getting dumber, you cannot even learn this” or “Japanese sucks, why don’t you give it up and learn it in English”. Well, nope. I will face it and I will grow. Enough nourishment for the immature comfort-zone-me. Because if you want to be more anti-mainstream (of complaining people), you can even say that I am living an awesome life where everyday is an opportunity day to learn new words, new things in foreign language, learn how hard it is to face mistakes repeatedly, to learn how things are made to be grateful for.
Because if I tried to look back my past, I will easily picked any days where hardness and difficulties were every now and then, but I could overcome it. I know I could do this too now, it is nonsensical for me to give up now. One says that it is when you are tired, the real battle begins. Well, I also know that it the chance to encounter another mistakes and failure will increase sharply when I embrace it (by learning through Japanese reading, etc) but this is the only way I could grow and be stronger. I know I could do this because I have my dream, a dream big and worth enough not to be defeated by these mistakes and failures.
Lastly, thanks to Puriri and Jorudi-senpai for the conversation. It really enlightened me that my problem is kind of normal and to make me realize that there are far more space for me to develop by learning and defeating the present me.
First Corinthians 10:13, “no test has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted [tested] beyond your ability” — or beyond what you are able — “but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
Well, this is personal religious belief though, but I believe that God gives me this path of life not to let me fall but to let me be his instrument, be the salt and bright to people around me, so that we may know how great is He compared to those problems and hurdles. Yes and so be it, amen!