My First Japanese Class (and why it won’t be my last)

My First Japanese Class (and why it won’t be my last)

I’ve never given formal language learning much thought. So, when I found myself fidgeting in a classroom of strangers at Bunka Language School, I began to wonder why I was waiting for my very first Japanese language class to start…

I had just come to the conclusion that I wouldn’t be there if not for my SkillsFuture Credit 1 when the teacher swept into the room.

She was a petite lady with large eyes, draped from wrist to ankle in loose earth-coloured robes, a style of fashion rarely seen in Singapore.

“Welcome. Page nine, your textbooks open please.”

Eh? Did I just hear Yoda-speak?

It was my very first taste of Japanese sentence construction. The subject-object-verb order was as refreshingly novel as her attire to me. I would later find it a mind-blowing experience to form sentences in Japanese – it was like learning to speak in code by doing mental gymnastics to create new patterns!

But for now, I quickly forgot the curiosity of Japanese syntax when I turned the crisp new pages of the textbook.

Page nine was a two-page spread of what looked like nothing so much as a periodic table. And the elements were mere squiggles… which magically made up the fundamental building blocks of the Japanese language!

With perfect seriousness, the teacher began to systematically introduce us to every squiggle – and we were suddenly plunging headlong on a learning journey that left us breathless.

We stumbled and we struggled, but her patient smile never faltered. Her earnestness was almost as amazing as our seeming inaptitude.

Three hours passed and I wasn’t even near to being able to pass for a Japanese native.

I was definitely able to pass for a student, though. I’ve had the most intense mental workout ever since I threw up my graduation hat!

It was as if I had just hit the brain gym with a private trainer; the lesson had stretched the limits of my mind further than I had thought possible! It was conditioning on par with the best Yoga (Yoda?) classes, and I knew for sure that my mind was being pushed into better shape.

What new heights of achievement would I attain? The only way to find out was to go for the next class. And the next. And the next.

As Yoda would say: “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”



Editor’s Note: The writer continued classes at Bunka well after all her SkillsFuture Credit were used up. She is also getting good at Yoda-speak.

Picture credits:

  1. SkillsFuture is a national movement in Singapore that encourages lifelong learning. All Singaporeans above the age of 25 received credits from January 2016 which can be used to offset the cost of skills development. Being a SkillsFuture-approved training provider, Bunka Language School’s courses are eligible for subsidising with the SkillsFuture Credit I was looking to spend.