I love me some Puerto Rican rice and beans. I love eating Ecuadorean dishes and I connect with my Hispanic friends more than any other ethnicity or race simply because I am Hispanic like them. The longer I live in New York City the more I embrace being Hispanic. Yet I get more and more interested in learning Japanese.
Before I even knew I should be learning Japanese
I remember while I was younger, I tried hard not to learn Spanish and to avoid any direct Hispanic influence from my parents. I remember how bad it was that my father wouldn’t speak to me unless I spoke to him in Spanish. Today, I am quite grateful for that.
I’m grateful for that lesson in particular because it led my brain to mold itself into knowing 2 languages. Spanish, will always be my first language. My parents only knew Spanish when they raised me and learned English as I did growing up. It may not seem like it but English is my second language.
English is what I’m most fluent in because of school and work but I can hold a conversation in Spanish. I’ll admit I do get nervous speaking to advanced speakers but if I switch my brain over to Spanish I can catch up and begin speaking as if Spanish was my native language. Actually, I do draw blanks from time to time but thankfully I know how to ask for help.
Can I think in 2 languages?
Over the summer I had asked a friend who knew English, Japanese, and Korean, what language he thought in. I believe by his facial gestures that he had never been asked that before and answered back, “In English”. I let him know that I asked because I think in both languages.
In my head, I can go from, “Quiero ir al bookstore mañana pero primero necesito comprarme groceries”. Translated into complete English: I want to go to the bookstore tomorrow but I have to buy groceries first. I can do this inversely too with more English and less Spanish. It’s very weird, and if anyone can do this, or does this naturally, I want to hear from you!
The longer I live in New York the more and more Spanish I use and the more I learn about other Hispanics and their culture. But, even though I am American, and have a Hispanic culture behind me. Beyond me, there’s one culture that I had always peaked my interest.
That culture that interests me most is Japan’s.
Oh Japan, why must you have a place in my heart?
Unknowingly, I practiced origami when I was younger. I was later obsessed, and still am, with Pokemon games, anime, Japanese music, and Japanese manga. As I got older I became even more intrigued with Japanese art, design, and entertainment.
Of course, these small things would lead me to learn Japanese.
I had no idea that the art I loved, the music I listened to, was that different or even of another culture completely. I only knew that the producers of such works spoke another language. Which wasn’t a big deal to me since I grew up knowing two languages.
It didn’t take very long before I wanted to understand the language.
Boy, I tried to learn Japanese. I tried, and tried, a lot while I was a teenager. As you may know, learning Japanese takes time. But at that age, dating, purchasing your first car, and your career begins to develop that you are just trying to get your life together is all.
I put off learning Japanese up until 10 years later. Funny enough, what I learned then I still know now.
I mean, there are Japanese songs I listened to a lot when I was younger that I re-listen to recently and remember lyrics to still.
My brain surprised me I was impressed with myself.
The Japan influence
But, as I began learning Japanese again, I’m very into learning new words, but grammar and culture is more important to me than anything. back then, I was more interested in what the words meant than who the people were behind the art. The reason for that was because at that time I was very careful with what my influences were, and as a Christian, anything that takes you away from God is something you should be careful with.
The Japanese are a people without religion. Which is amazing to me. It’s amazing how secular they are yet almost all other countries have some form of religion they’re exclusively known for. Spain and Catholicism, Israel and Judaism, even the United States and Christianity are just a few examples.
Reflecting, I used to translate songs as a respect God, so that I knew what I was listening to and today I just want to understand the culture more than anything.
The people are what is important to me
The more and more I learn about the culture, the deeper I want to learn about the Japanese people. Not about the anime, the Jpop, and whatever else most people recognize Japan for, but I want to know the people.
I don’t care much about the customs, the traditions, and even politics but I do want to understand what drives the Japanese to be such leaders in robotics, technology, and even want to be the best in their fields. But along the way, I’d love to learn customs and traditions as well, yet they’re not what I’m focused on.
Japan and Jesus?
To be straightforward, I do want to bring many Japanese toward salvation.
I really do.
But how? I have no idea. I’m not a minister, or part of a missions team at all but it is what I want to do. How I get there… well that’s up to God.
But it’s this purpose, this yearning to help others, especially the Japanese that has led me to learn Japanese.
Actually, I relaize the Japanese may not need help in the salvation department. I’ll find a way to get to know at least one person there and lead them to salvation.
It only takes one person to start a revival.
If you’d like to know more about why I must go to Japan please do so by checking out this article here: Why My Heart Belongs to Japan.
Yessenia Diaz has a background in graphic and web design but is also intrigued by writing and teaching. Yessenia created Tru.Works as an outlet for all her talents and continues collecting stories from around the world to share with people all across the interweb. Follow Yessenia on Instagram and her favorite, Twitter, @ythegreatdiaz.