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Thursday, July 19, 2007


This post is dedicated to those who’s having hard time to master a foreign language, be it English, Japanese, Korean, or whatever. I want to share some tips here, but bear with me for a while because there’s always a story before morale of the story. Hehe…

I remember during my school time, I didn’t really like language subjects, be it English or Bahasa Melayu. My SPM result for Bahasa Melayu in fact was lower than my English, shame on me. Anyway, I took language for granted as I thought language is only a language.

However, upon being given the chance to do higher education out of the country, automatically means that I have to depend on my English capability more than just a language. By then, I noticed that my everyday life depended so much on how well I can communicate in English, especially during lectures. To cut story short, I survived few years there and after returning to home country with a passport-to-get-a-job in hand, Alhamdulillah I got a fairly decent job in a Japanese multinational company.

There are few Japanese staffs in the office. Even my boss is a Japanese (who likes to karate leher orang tanpa was-was. Ingat seronok sangat ke kena karate ni?). Roughly 50% of my time in the office I cannot help it other than have to listen to my boss having phone conversations in Japanese language, Nihon-go. He was seated just 3 steps away from me, and he may karate me if I cover my ears with my hands. So, new language is entering my brain a little bit day by day.

One day, my boss asked me to go for long term training in Japan. Can I say NO? Nak mampus? So, a man got to do what a man got to do, hehe. I boarded a flight from KLIA at 11pm, and by 5am in the next morning I was already breathing Japan’s air. My initial excitement of being in Japan for the first time was destroyed completely when I can’t understand what people speaks, I can’t understand what are written, and I can’t say what I wanted to say. Everything has to be done in Nihon-go, and I never learned that language before. For those who know only a little bit about Japanese people, trust me, most of them don’t like English!

I was firstly sent for a 6 weeks express Nihon-go class, just enough to cover for beginner level. But, I have to live in Japan for one full year. Was it tough? Yes it was. The teachers didn’t speak English at all in the classroom. 80% will be taught in Nihon-go, 10% by the assistance of drawing on the white board, and another 10% by bahasa isyarat. Anyway, it was fun to learn a new foreign language. I had a very fun 6 weeks in Osaka. Maybe partly because I managed to be the best student in the classroom by the end of the days, after all the hard work of memorizing everything I learnt.

After completing the 6 weeks Nihon-go lesson, I was sent to my real training plant, far away from Osaka. There, I was by myself. This time I had to do self-learning, or else I won’t be able to read the documents or communicate with the colleagues there. If I can’t communicate or read, how on earth can I do the job training? Ktung ktang ktung ktang, one year period was over and I was able to converse in Nihon-go pretty well, and made some good friends with the Japanese colleagues too.

Back in home country, I speak in Nihon-go with my Japanese boss, and he speaks in English with me. Macam ayam dengan itik, tapi dua-dua boleh faham. Can you imagine that?

So, here comes the list of some tips that I discovered while I was learning English and Japanese. They worked for me. Hopefully this will help you to master a foreign language faster.

1) Memorization. Language requires lots of memorization. The grammars, the vocabs. This one is a no escape, must work hard on memorizing. Reading, listening and speaking will do a good deal in helping you to memorize better.
2) Imitation. Imitation means you follow how other people speak. By doing this, you will appear as fluent as the person you imitate. Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself. I always observe and imitate those Japanese when they speak. So, you will know the lenggok bahasa and the words they use when they talk on the phone, when they make jokes, when they are having meeting and so on and so forth. In each situation the lenggok bahasa is different. And that is important too!
3) Imagination. I personally believe that the ultimate way to put you at the top of mastering a foreign language is to always imagine in that language. People say “cakap dalam hati” or talking in your head. For me, cakap dalam hati means we are processing the thoughts, i.e. thinking. So, try to think in the foreign language as much as you could. Train your brain to think in that specific foreign language rather than your mother tongue language. Don’t be surprised if one day you will be automatically saying “Opss, oh no!” rather than “Opocot mak kau!

Good Luck!

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