I lived in a city called West Palm Beach, Florida near Lake Okeechobee, until I was 12 years old. I was exposed to people from around the world that could speak a handful of different languages. The most dominant language besides English at the time was Spanish and I had picked up a bit just by being surrounded by it. If I drove about 30 minutes South, Spanish speaking skills were a must. I also took martial arts lessons, specifically Taekwondo, at a nearby dojang where the owners were half Korean and often taught the Korean terms for any moves, counting, being sure to keep a continuous blend of Korean and American culture. In middle school I moved to an area of NH where most people only spoke English and as such Spanish, French, and Latin were offered in the school systems starting in high school. I decided to go with Spanish, but had no real interest and did not challenge myself to learn the language as there was not anyone to speak with that was a native speaker or at least fluent in Spanish besides the instructor. There are many factors that play into how I have been learning the Japanese Language. The more prevalent aspects that affect me in my daily life in correlation to Japanese as a second language are known in linguistic anthropology terms as gender, expert, competence, gesture, community, humor, identity and evolution, yet the most important in my mind is motivation.
I have found motivation an elusive and difficult thing to find again and again. As far as a second language is concerned the process of learning often stems from some sort of driving force, to get you through the days where things are not working out, you feel like you are miles away from your goal and the only thing keeping you from quitting is some form of motivation. That can be an internal force or external. An excerpt from a journal article on motivational factors in consideration to Japanese specifically as a foreign or second language stated:
“…some motivational categories are quite exclusive to Second Language Acquisition; for example…‘communication’ as a driving force in learning a second language. MacNamara, and Lambert and Gardner’s integrative motivation refer to the fundamental nature of learning a foreign language as communicating with native speakers of the language, and as succeeding in becoming part of the community where the target language is spoken” (MATSUMOTO 60)
In this journal the focus is more on the continuation of learning and the motivation that keeps that interest in the subject for every step of the way, even after the academic, in-class level, of learning has passed. This strikes a key with me as I have never been naturally skilled or talented in the acquisition of languages. I often received poor scores on tests, quizzes and exams, yet I was always giving it my all. I could study for 5 hours straight, and get the same result or worse than someone else that studied for just one hour. An interesting thing about this article is that it is going against achievement theories; such as “you are successful so you gain the want to continue”, by saying:
“the learning of a foreign/second language involves far more than simply learning skills, or a system of rules, or a grammar; it involves an alteration in self-image, the adoption of new social and cultural behaviours and ways of being, and therefore has a significant impact on the social nature of the learner.” (MATSUMOTO 61)
This reasons that success in a second language goes beyond immediate grammatical, testable success, and melds the understanding of these rules with the changing of oneself at the same time. This is where my journey takes a turn for the hardest thing I have ever tried to do, and am still doing, learning Japanese.
When I was a freshman in high school I met an exchange student from Japan. He was in the same calculus course as me and he could speak basic English. He seemed like a nice person and I tried talk to him every day, yet he could not understand much of what I said and I had no knowledge of Japanese outside of “Konnichiha” and “Arigatou” which mean “good afternoon” and “thanks”. After about three weeks of failed attempts to communicate I decided that I would learn Japanese in order to help bridge the gap between us. I wandered haphazardly in my studies, picking up random words and a rough memorization of two of the Japanese writing scripts. Yet this did not help in my ability to speak in Japanese, yet he was improving rapidly with his English ability every day. This was my first motivation for learning Japanese.
Throughout high school I tried to get a Japanese language course integrated into the public school in order to study it in a formal setting with hopes of getting at least a few years worth of study. This went on for 3 years and then finally I had the chance from a grant offer by the state for new classes in public schools in New Hampshire. I was in charge of finding a Japanese instructor, students that shared a similar desire to learn Japanese, a time that worked for everyone to meet, and then to help decide how the class was to be graded. The class was hard and not structured very well, as the kind hearted instructor was used to teaching young children that had already spoken some Japanese and I was the only student to follow through with the class to the end. I had ended up learning mainly about the culture and a collection of interesting facts and the proper pronunciation of the Japanese syllabaries, but that was enough to get me started.
MATSUMOTO, MASANORI, and YASUKO OBANA. “MOTIVATIONAL FACTORS AND PERSISTENCE IN LEARNING JAPANESE AS A FOREIGN LANGUAGE.” New Zealand Journal of Asian Studies (2001): n. pag. New Zealand Journal of Asian Studies. June 2001. Web. 12 Apr. 2013. <http://www.nzasia.org.nz/downloads/NZJAS-June01/LearningJapanese.pdf>.
After the long wait I have officially received my Japanese Visa! I was told that it would just be a small stamp in my passport, but it is actually a second photo page, similar to the main photo and info page of my passport.
All I have left to do before I leave is to finish paying my university bill, pack (oh boy), clean/ organize my room, run…a lot!, work, and not purchase anything.
countdown 20 days 😉
When I was 4 years old I started training in TaeKwonDo in Florida. I continued for several years, entering in dozens of competitions along the way, traveling, meeting new people, and having amazing experiences. Then I moved to NH and went a few years before I felt a longing to get back into the martial arts world. I then moved to Kajukenpo and Pai lum kung fu, training in those styles for a few years and then injured myself, bringing my training to a sudden halt for about 2 years. Then switching back to Taekwondo after I had healed enough to train and getting my car so I could drive myself longer distances without relying on my parents. Once I entered college I continued practicing TaeKwonDo more and more and eventually entered my first collegiate competition.
Let’s just say it wasn’t my best set of results. But at the same time I loved it, it didn’t matter if I had won or lost, it was about pushing myself and seeing what I was capable of, as well as what others were capable of. From there I could see just how much work I needed to do to compete at their levels. I was having an amazing time while balancing coursework, a part time job, friends, and TKD. At the second competition I was leaner, faster, stronger, and smarter in the ways of competition fighting. I still had a long way to go before I would be able to compete with the highest ranking competitors from universities and colleges like Harvard, MIT, NYU, UCLA and more, but I was starting to hold my own. Saddly that was my last competition at the collegiate level since, I just finished my Junior year in college and I have recently come into contact with the people I had trained under as well as the people I trained with in Florida as a small kid.
Since talking with everyone I have realized that I could do so much more, push myself so much farther, but only if I was the one who truly wanted to, if I was going to push, if I was going to dedicate my whole self into this. There is no changing the past, and no use in wishing you had done something differently, there is only now, and the future that can be changed, but I will not let go of my past.
I have decided to dedicate myself to training every day in order to compete on the national level for TaeKwonDo. I will not, cannot, slack off. I will eat healthier, go distance running, body-weight train, possibly weight-train, bike to and from work (6 or so miles each way), and most importantly I will practice TaeKwonDo every day.
My goals to reach are as follows;
-win a local TKD Tournament
-run a 5K
-be in great health/ shape
-compete in nationals
-maybe more to come later
This will not be easy and I will not pretend that it will be. Yet that does not change the fact that I will give this everything I have.
It is 2012 and the end of the world as we knew it has commenced. A Neuro–virus has been released onto the majority of the students here at UMass. The fire sprinkler systems were broken into, the Neuro-virus added and then, at the peak of the day, they were all set off simultaneously, effectively drenching the unexpecting and quickly irritated students. The virus seeped into the body through cuts, scrapes, eyes and even the pores if left on the skin long enough. All thanks to a junior writing professor and his whimsical mind and sporadic distaste for monotony, a few others and myself ended up outside, sitting on the steps of the Campus Center when this all occurred. This spared us from the almost instantaneous Zombification process that occurred once the N-virus reached your blood system.
It’s a perfect spring day, a crisp, yet relaxing breeze rolls in through the window. Not cold enough for a coat, yet not hot enough to turn on a fan. Pristine. The time of the day doesn’t matter, although a nice early morning feel is always there. All of the day’s worry, anguish, and exhaustion just get swept away with every passing moment. Reaching the point of being lulled to sleep by the distant chirps of a bird. Then…
“Munch…snap…muchity, crunchity, crunch!” echoes through the mind like poison. Leaking through the cracks, hardening and binding everything it touches. My eyes bulge open as if nails are clawing at a chalkboard’s face. Body rigid, I turn to see my roommate, on the other side of the room. Large carnivorous spiders latched to his ears, blocking out the world to all but the secluded pulsations of the metallic sheet centimeters from his ears. He turns just enough for me to see his mouth full of apple, opening then shutting, again and again! The munching has now turned to mushing, agonizing chomping and tongue taping as if it were a special skill to be celebrated.
If only the spiders would do as the should.
The sky opens up; pushing back the gloom of grey and infusing the world with vibrancies that set the eyes and hearts ablaze. The fresh, crisp wind blows just enough to tickle your senses into a giddy smile. With this bliss and light-heartedness come the unpleasantness of fluctuating weather patterns and the despised first waves of mosquito battalions out for first blood. The want to sit in the nook of a tree and read something so full heartedly that your mind creates a movie through the mind, not even noticing the words on the page, but seeing the events firsthand. All leading up to the torrential downpour during a thunderstorm, raising the hairs on your body from head to toe until you are carried into the rain enticed into dancing your worries away until you have been set free.
It seems that everyone was doing better today, not as beat and sore before the workout, and had a lot more energy to offer. The focus on slower movements was a blessing for 2 of my friends that had eaten just before showing up…I thought they would lose their food by the end of the 10th minute, but the change-up saved them 😉
Today marked Day 3 of my Insanity Challenge, and all I have to say is …OUCH!
my legs more than anything else are truly sore. This is pretty ironic seeing as I study a few forms of martial arts and one of them focuses specifically on the legs. I can really feel an intense streeeeetch if I do a squat. So far I don’t feel much in my abs, but it i
s there just a little bit saying hello.
Today’s workout was pretty intense and left me weak and exhausted by the time it had finished. That’s exactly what I want! I know I dread heading over to the workout zone of a lounge or basement in one of the dorms, moving furniture out of the way, then starting the insanity workout but I can already FEEL that a progress is being made (and I’ve only just begun).
I’m hoping that by day 15 I will be able to make it through every workout without needing to stop to catch my breath or such.
I can tell that I will need a lot of support from my 3 other friends that are doing this challenge with me. especially since I love to take naps so my usual allotted time for a nap is being handed over to Insanity craze camp.
I’m considering putting up photos of before and after… but I think I will only do that at the VERY end which is day 60 or so. Any thoughts?
I saw something moments ago that scared me horribly….There were Team Peeta and Team Gale shirts, stickers
and more for sale and all I could think of was Twilight… PLEASSSSSEEEEEEEEE don’t let this become a twisted after-version of everyone fighting over “who is better” and so on.