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Language differences

Studying in an unfamiliar environment, away from one’s own country is never going to be an easy task. There are many issues to get used to, especially in terms of the cultural and language differences. If you are going to an Asian country like Japan, you might even have to deal with gender issues. It is already stressful enough to be in the country but having other issues to deal with will be added stress.

These issues can be a great mental stress for us as we can clearly see in the two readings where the main characters of the stories fought within their inner minds to retain their identities while at the same time trying to blend in with the new environment. Going away to stay in a totally new environment can be a very terrifying experience especially when you do not even speak the language. Language is a mean of expression for the individual, thus if you are unable to get yourself understood as in the case of the author in “Lost in Translation”, the amount of frustration felt can really be very high.

Imagine going to a new school to study but you are unable to communicate with your new friends because you cannot understand their language! How lonely that will be! In fact, after a few months at the new country, the author was not even able to find the language to communicate with herself. She became very confused over who she really was. This is a relatively frightening thought and I do not want to be in her shoes. She was obviously faced with a cultural shock the moment she entered the country. It must have been very hard on her but at least she was determined enough to stick it through.

However, I wonder if it would have helped if she had sought the assistance and advice from her class teachers or close friends. It might have made the transition period easier to endure. One lesson I learnt from her experience is that if you are thrown into an environment where you totally cannot use language to communicate with others, you will very quickly learn to speak that language, even though your pronunciation might have to be very slowly and deliberately at first. From the second reading article of “Crafting Selves”, I cannot help but shudder at the thought of my identity collapsing because of my attempt to fit onto the environment.

Here the author did not have a language difference but she was so successful in blending in with the rest of the society that she became a totally different person. What is more horrifying is that the change is so gradual that you might not even notice it! It feels like one is being ‘brainwashed’! You won’t even know who you are at the end! In this reading, the author also talks about her frustrations in finding her way around Tokyo and doing things the way the local people do.

She was very patient and was willing to learn even though the locals were rather frustrated with her at the beginning when she showed she was ignorant of the culture of the country. What makes it worse was that she looked just like the rest of them but was obviously not one of them. It leads me to think about the preparation I should make before leaving for another country. There are bound to be certain aspects of daily life that lessons at school will not be able to prepare me for and it is thus up to me to handle the situation effectively.

However, the most important point to note is that I must be very willing to learn while at the same time be careful to retain my identity. All in all, going to another country to study will definitely take a great amount of determination and courage on the part of the individual. The difference in lifestyle will be a great challenge but there is nothing that cannot be overcome. It can be a great learning experience if one is able to handle the situation properly. It is also important to realize when help is needed and to seek help instead of waiting and trying to solve things on my own but end up making things worse.

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