My sister and I began taking up language lessons. We’re just having some self-study sessions, where she teaches me Japanese and I teach her Spanish and we study Korean together. I took up Spanish during college, just six units of the elective. I’m still brushing up on my knowledge on basic Spanish because not having practiced for years does get your memory rusty on the subject. It is helpful to immerse yourself in the language by watching or reading if you don’t have to option to converse with others who know the language. In our case, we’re fond of watching Chinese programs, Japanese and Korean series, as well as listening to their music. So our knowledge on Mandarin is getting better. When we were studying, I could read the textbooks we have in class, and when it comes to the newspaper that my aunt would tell me to read; I’m rather slow at that then and couldn’t quite grasp the meaning of what I’ve read in an instant. Right now, it’s so easy to read a Chinese text. I love reading Chinese novels and self-help books. And for Japanese and Korean, our ears have been trained to easier grasp of the language with repetitive listening to native speakers – because of watching the drama series in the original language with the subtitles on. Sometimes we would speak a single sentence that is comprised of different languages, or one would speak in Korean and another would reply in Japanese. I know that it’s not the best thing to do for practice, but when we are just having casual conversation, we would mix them all up and still understand each other perfectly. Well, that’s just for the two of us.
I’m grateful to be able to study Mandarin since I was a child. We studied the alphabet, the strokes, practiced a lot of writing and speaking. I’m also glad that I paid attention to our classes, remembering the words because there are really many Chinese words in the dictionary, each one could mean differently when attached to a different word. My classmates and professors then were very amazed at how the Chinese language works. They were surprised at how the words seem complicated and how one word could refer to a different meaning. I still don’t know a lot of words, but reading a book is no problem or listening to someone speak in Mandarin.
It is fun learning different languages. It also gives an advantage to be able to speak with native speakers when visiting a foreign country. Growing up in a multilingual environment is very helpful in learning new language. My mom’s side speaks Visayan language – Waray and one of my aunt speaks Cebuano, then my cousin’s husband speaks Bicolano. I’m quite familiar with some Waray because we heard it since we were kids. I’m fluent in Filipino, and the Filipino subject has been my favourite since grade school while many hate it. I have written stories in this language. Then in our household, we are spoken to by the elders in Hokkien or Min Nan, though we mostly replied in Filipino. I’m more familiar with Mandarin than speaking in Hokkien, but I do understand the language, but cannot speak fluidly. Then in school, classes are held mostly in English in the morning and Chinese in the afternoon. In the Chinese classes, the teachers would use Hokkien, while we read the texts in Mandarin. In our religion class in college, we were taught the Greek alphabet by our professor. He said he studied it when he was taking up his masters in Germany. He taught us a few words and even tested us on how to write them. He made us memorize “Pater Hemon” Our Father in Greek and when he found out that I’m Chinese, he asked if I know the Chinese version of Our Father. He also made me take note of that. He also taught us some Hebrew origins of the words in the Bible and wrote it down for us. We were required to take up two subjects of Spanish and I’m glad we did. When we still had the TVe station, I would visit it and watch some Spanish news or other programs they have there. It was difficult to catch their speed but it’s a good exercise to familiarize with the language. Our professor is really good and studying the language was really interesting. He asked us to watch some movies featured at Instituto Cervantes to have a better grasp of the language and to get a glimpse of their culture as well through film. Later on, I got interested in Korean language so I familiarized myself with the Hangul and now I can read texts in Korean, though I’m still in the learning stage of comprehension, but I can catch some phrases and understand the meaning of songs. I would visit some language sites that have French, German, Italian, and Russian (which I think one of my cousins knows how to speak), just because I’m really interested in foreign languages. Sometimes, it also helps when others think that your a foreigner and they think that if they speak in their own native tongue, you don’t understand them. So you get to have a clue if their already bashing you or taking advantage of you. When visiting a foreign place and you know how to speak their language, they become at ease with you as contrast to struggling to converse with you for example in English or sign language. Some are also amazed that we can speak Mandarin really well when they found out that we’ve come from the Philippines, though mostly we pass as locales in countries like, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Japan and Korea. In our experience, there would be foreigners asking us for directions or locals approaching us and directly conversing with us in their language, it’s past a second and they’d realize that we don’t really understand what they’ve said.
I agree with my cousin that it’s much different when you attend class where you are forced to learn and speak, also, to have someone knowledgeable in the subject to teach you. We needed to have discipline in our lessons, to hold them regularly so that we will be productive. We stopped weeks back, but we’re right back on track again, ready to take down notes and really familiarize ourselves with the languages by reviewing repetitively. I have to review my Japanese alphabet and memorize vocabularies diligently or I’ll fail this course.