Written by Jacob Clements, (University of Kansas) Student Correspondent CET Japan, Summer 2018
I think the best way to begin this blog post is to quote myself a little over a week ago:
“Hi everyone, my name is Jacob Clements. I am a graduate student at the University of Kansas, in the East Asian Studies department. I earned my bachelor’s degree from the University of Northern Iowa, and I taught English in Denver for two years before beginning my graduate program. The thing that I am most excited about for this summer is, unlike most of you who have spoken so far, to get lost in Osaka. I think the best way to really get to know a city is to stray away from the main roads. The thing that I am most scared of is the language pledge.”
In my limited time abroad, I have always had English to fall back on. The idea of not being able to use it was a little like getting my training wheels taken off for the first time. And I would say that, a week into the program, I am a lot like 4 year old me trying to stay upright on that training wheel-less bicycle. Sure, I can make it to where I want to go, but it takes a long time to do so, and it usually leaves me a little frustrated.
However, the great thing about the CET program is that you are not alone. Our group Line chat has 77 people in it. Young, old, all levels of language ability. That is 76 voices that keep telling you that you can express yourself in this language, even if you feel like you are three years old again. Then you have your roommate, who is like your mother, father, big brother or big sister who held you upright for those first few steps, helped you keep your balance until you were ready to pedal on your own. It is hard, and it will be the whole time I am here, but it is not as hard as I thought it would be. You learn to adapt, say things in more words than are necessary to get your meaning across or talk around the word that you don’t know. Your roommates help you out, with menus, signs, and cultural faux pas and eventually you become confident enough to…say…go shopping for a birthday present in Shinsaibashi or wander around a temple complex on your own.
I hope that if you are looking at this program and hesitating because of the language pledge, that you really think it through again. I started my graduate program with the intention to read in Japanese, but language isn’t learned in a vacuum. Reading, writing, listening, they are all part of the same goal, and there really isn’t a better way to learn a language than to use it everyday. Why not do it in a place where millions of others are using it to?