Just say it: Don’t worry about your accent

 

I always think that worrying about our accents when we are learning languages, it is indeed a waste of time, which will only extend and delay our learning process unnecessarily.
At the beginning, we just need to practice, talk to yourself in front of the mirror, talk to yourself while you are jogging. In other words, talk as there was no tomorrow.

I remember preparing for my first cultural exchange in the States, in the very same way, I would go for a run and start asking questions to myself and answer them as best as I could. I am very inquisitive, you know? 🤓

I know there are many books out there that advise the opposite of what I am saying here, that’s why you might probably be doubting this little post. Fair enough.

But, I am sure you have seen parents teaching their cute little  babies to talk. Do they focus on the babies’ accents? Or do they focus on making the baby talk?

As you could see in that little example, to learn a language, the first thing we have to do is to produce language. As our brains assimilate the new language, we will naturally go into the second stage, which is brushing and polishing not only our pronunciation but also vocabulary.

So in other words, Just say it 😁

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Mr Abe, can Mario Bros fix Fukushima?

At Rio Olympic closing ceremony, I saw Japanese prime minister, Shinto Abe, emerging from a pipe, trying to emulate video games’ hero “Mario Bros.” And against my own will, I have to admit that it was very hard not to feel proud to belong, somehow, to this land.

And although I would like to congratulate Mr. Abe on getting Japan the great honor to host the Olympic Games, I think the pride to host the games makes us overlook the urgent matters in this country and that Mr. Abe hasn’t done anything to solve any them. Any of them.

It has been more than six years since the Tohoku earthquake hit Japan, and little has been done to solve the problems in the Tohoku area. We still have leaks, the population still living in exile, unable to return to their homes, and their economy is draining.

And our Prime Minister, Shinto Abe hasn’t had a better idea than stimulating tourism to Fukushima and Iwate, areas close to the plants. And selling vegetables cultivate in the area. In other words, the responsibility to help Fukushima falls on the population’s lap. A very easy approach, don’t you think?

The population is waking up, Mr. Abe. And we don’t like how you have been wasting precious time in helping the Tohoku population. Stop procrastinating and do your job, Mr. Abe. Do your job.

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Misunderstanding Katakana

The Japanese language is a beautiful, even poetic, and yet enigmatic language. An ancient language composed of three alphabets: Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji. Although some people might say that the Japanese language has evolved, therefore, now, we have four alphabets: Hiragana, Katakana, Kanji and the (English) alphabet.

I want to explain traditional things here 🙂 so we will only focus just on the three alphabets: Hiragana, which is a phonetic alphabet, made of beautiful strokes that resemble the curves of a woman. Kanji, which comes from China and has suffered alterations to fit our needs. And katakana, which is the alphabet that introduces, or adapts, if you’d prefer, words from other languages into Japanese. For example:

Chocolate = チョコレート(chokore-to)pablo-5.png

Towel = タオル (taoru)

Katana is a resourceful and creative alphabet. Because it helps us understand other languages, and somehow make them familiar. While helping the Japanese language to overcome its lack of “L” sound

As you read it, in case you haven’t noticed in the examples above, the Japanese language doesn’t have “L” sound. And that’s why we replace it with the “R” sound, which we think is the closest to “L” so words with “L” suffered a few itsy-bitsy (very small) modifications:

Light = ライト(raito)

Lemon = レモン (remon)

Although we have found a creative way to overcome our shortage of “L” sound replacing it with the “R” sound, I’d be bold to say that that’s also the reason why we have some problems differentiating words such as:

Play (プレイpurei) Pray(プレイ purei)

And as most Japanese speakers will keep using the katakana pronunciation when speaking English because, as aforementioned, Katana is the alphabet that helps us understand sounds we are not familiar with, we rely on it. Therefore, some people, as it is logical, trust that the sound katana is providing us, it is the sound in the original language, which is, unfortunately, not always true.

And even countries’ names also suffer certain modifications

Brazil = ブラジル (Burajiru)

Russia = ロシア (Rosia)

Mexico = メキシコ (Mekishiko)

I have come across countless students, who become speechless once I correct the pronunciation of the countries’ names. Believe it or not, it is an eye opener.

But the real problem comes when we borrow words from other languages into Japanese language and then change their meanings. As you read it, we modify the meaning of the words we borrow.

As someone who loves languages, I have always found fascinating the interaction among them. But borrowing words and changing their meaning, it’s in my humble opinion, not good. Because aside from disrespecting the original meaning and richness of the language we are borrowing words from. We are consequently, damaging our learning process and our understanding of what a language means.

I will give you some examples to illustrate what I am trying to say. For example:

Complementary service = サービス (sa-bisu) we only take “service” which in English on its own doesn’t mean complementary service.

Transit = トランジット (toranjitto) which we use to refer to the places where we change planes while traveling.

Claim = クレーム (kure-mu) which we have decided means complaint.

It is not only Japanese language that has borrowed words from other languages. English has as well borrowed many words from French:

Croissant 🥐 = the rich buttery bread I could eat every single day 🙂

Bureaucracy = administrative system

As you can see, all languages borrow words from one another. Therefore, it is more than OK to borrow words from other languages. Especially in this time of technology, where finding the equivalents in our languages to all those new words is an enormous (very big)task. But fortunately, in Japanese, we have katakana to help us. But let’s not change the meaning of words, because we will be confusing ourselves creating a sort of Japanese- English mix that only works in Japan for Japanese speakers.

And as a result of all that, we will be unnecessarily complicating and delaying our learning process and, at the end, misunderstanding katakana.

Let’s keep learning together ❤️

英語を習うのためのプラス思考

I know is not Tuesday, but I would like to humbly introduce to my very first book “英語を習うのためのプラス思考” (Positive thinking to learn English”  In this book I reflect my ideas about teaching and ESL,  bringing them to live through Taro, which is the name of the little character that illustrates the book, which drew all myself as well.

I have enjoyed the experience so much that I have already threatened my editor Nick West with new literary adventures 🙂

Thank you-thank you VERY- much for all your likes, comments, shares and love. Your support does mean a lot to me. It really does. And I know you all already help me lots, but I would like to ask you to share the link of my book, please. m(_ _)m