|The communications qualification requires students to demonstrate learning in bilingualism and public speaking. Most often, this is presented in two separate blog posts. The following are exemplars for each of these reflections:
Japanese, English, Italian
I am Japanese by nationality, but the English language comes just as natural to me. It is to the point where I think and dream in English, so it is more natural to me than my mother tongue.I speak Japanese with my parents, however it is always English with my brother at home. When I lived in countries other than Japan, there was no need to use Japanese other than the daily conversations amongst my parents, so I have to say, my Japanese was starting to deteriorate. Once I moved back to Japan in 11th grade, I regained the skill again. I was in a Japanese speaking community, where communicating in that language was a necessity. Also, I choose to take an IB Japanese A HL course at school. I am glad that I decided to take Japanese for my IB courses, because it was a good opportunity to study in Japanese and up my language skills. As a Japanese person by birth, I felt that it was necessary for me to understand and study at least the basics of Japanese.In addition to these two languages, I also took Beginners Italian and progressed to Intermediate Italian classes during the three years I lived in Milan, Italy. It was different from the other languages I knew. For example, I was unfamiliar with the concept of conjugation. It was such a great experience to be exposed to different languages, and although the work was hard at times, my ability to be able to speak all three languages more or less fluently is something that I find very useful and unique.
ハーフ：The Bilingual Race
My relationship with bilingualism is a long and storied history of turning tides. I have lived in Japan most of my life, at the time of writing this, having spent only 2 full years in the United States, the rest of the 16 here in Japan. My mother is Cuban-American, and my father is Japanese. I am what the Japanese call a ハーフ, a “hafu”.
My dad’s side of the family, the Sekiyas were a prominent samurai family in Fukuoka dating back hundreds of years. My mother’s side of the family, the Gomezes were pre-Castro Cuban immigrants to New York City. Every summer, I would visit the Gomez side in the States, either in New York City or in Miami (I never cease to be astounded by how many first and second cousins I have). The relevance of this is that growing up in Japan and going to Japanese pre-school and having Japanese friends, I was inundated with Japanese, while living at home my mother always spoke to me in English, though I preferred Japanese with my father and sister. And yet still, at the same time, visiting my relatives in New York and Miami, I was exposed to Spanish, at least, the brusque Latin American variant. My Japanese shyness was flooded with bubbly Cuban hospitality, and through it all, I was only able to communicate in English. I must say I was at a loss in my visits to the the States. In such a cultural mishmash, I often never felt that any one group of people really understood where I was coming from, other than my family. Of course, this all changed with international school.
Many are unaware of this, but Japanese was actually the first language I learned, and was by far stronger than my English. The major turning point for the pie chart that is my proficiency in languages was when I was 5 years old, being placed in Christian Academy in Japan, an international school where English was the language of instruction. In international school, I found a bilingual community where mostly everyone spoke Japanese and English. It was like entering my own country for the first time. The citizens of this international yet Japan-leaning bubble were my fellow compatriots. Steadily, my English left hand became stronger, until I was ambidextrous in both Japanese and English. And in this way I stayed, learning my Japanese steadily at after school Kumon while my English developed with my at school discovery of The Lion, the Witch, & The Wardrobe series, as well as the Harry Potter books.
The second turning point in the balance was my move to America, in the 2nd grade living in Pacific Grove, California for one year on my father’s sabbatical. Here, I was exposed for the first time to daily life as an American, for the most part surrounded by kids who thought Japanese people ate dogs, although I managed to find two Japanese boys who were my best friends for the duration of the year. When I returned to Japan, my Japanese ability was slowly being eclipsed by my English one, a process that continued into 5th grade. Here, I spent my second year in the United States, moving to Bellevue, Washington for my 6th grade year.
The year here was the one in which my Japanese took a heavy beating, unable to use Japanese at all due to a lack of Japanese people at my school and my father staying in Japan to work. I think bilingualism for transient kids like the ones that go to international school is like this, it is a constant battle for supremacy between the languages a person speaks. Also, as I was better at reading in English and the books I wanted to read were more often than not only written in English, I fell into the habit of reading only books written in English. I began writing my stories only in English as my mastery of the language continued to improve. I played World of Warcraft in English, watched American TV, and hung out with the Korean-Americans because my school had a shortage of Japanese people (near Seattle, of all places) and I was homesick for Asia.
After returning from the States, my Japanese ability was severely hindered, with my sister noticing that I had a bit of an accent when I spoke the language. It was one of the most disheartening moments of my life, as I considered Japan my home and was so happy to be back after a miserable year in the States.
I was to be saved in the form of Yokohama International School, however, which had a strong Japanese language program that allowed me to slowly rehabilitate the language. Through the grades of 7~10, I stayed with the native speaker class, maintaining good marks and passing exams. I did struggle. I knew I was more advanced than the semi-native class, but the material in the native one was very difficult. I wouldn’t say my vocabulary grew incredibly, but I was able to improve steadily. At the same time, I pursued Spanish every year of middle school and for my IGCSE years of 9 & 10, slowly coming to understand what it was my Miami relatives were saying, and when they teased other Latin American cultures (apparently, there is a hierarchy).
When IB came and I had to make a choice on which language to continue, I chose Japanese as I felt it was the one that I wanted to truly rehabilitate and master, to regain the fluency I had once had. I joined the Higher Level class for Japanese B, after a long decision on whether to continue at a standard native level or drop to an advanced semi-native one.
I decided on the latter as it would help me to solidify the foundations of my Japanese, which had been shaken in my time in America, and had not had time to recover due to the native class’s nature of continuing into progressively more and more complex material. My goal was to firmly speak, read, and write the Japanese I had always been able to understand. The decision was one of my best, and has allowed me to finally find a level of Japanese learning that is setting me up to graduate from high school as a functionally bilingual person, able to carry conversations and understand texts on a wide array of subjects studied in class.
As I head off to the United States, it is a heartening thought that I will be going there with my Japanese intact, and this time, I don’t intend to lose it again. Though admittedly much of what I do, wear, and think is American, I am still through and through a Japanese patriot. They are the country I root for in soccer, at the Olympics, and at the Nobel awards. I am able to go to the hospital and talk with a doctor about an operation. I am able to reserve studio time for my rock band. I am able to say I have 大和魂 (Yamato spirit) without an accent at a soccer game. So I suppose after all that could have happened, I’m still a ハーフ, in the truest sense of the word. And that is truly a fine thing.
Circling the World & Defining Myself
“What are you?” is the most asked and irritating question when meeting new people. Instead of shedding light on my multicultural background I let people guess. And not surprisingly I am left with a never-ending list of assumptions.
Apparently I look Spanish, Polish, Russian, German, Cuban, Peruvian, Brazilian, Afghan, Hawaiian (I wish), Chinese, Korean, Indonesian, Japanese and many more! In terms of ethnicities I am half Japanese and half German. Truthfully I do not believe that I can be defined by that. I might look a certain way, but my families background, as well as my journey of residence all over earth shape me into what I am today.
Local Japanese cannot recognize my asian influence, since I do not behave nor look like one. My mother is 100% Okinawan (island annexed by Japan) by blood, but was born and raised in Peru. Not surprisingly the easygoing latino way of life has rubbed off on her and in effect also on me. I deeply enjoy salsa tunes and dances, South American food and being spontaneous! It therefore seems difficult for me to feel sedated in a Japanese environment. Having lived in Japan for almost 3 years however, I do feel more familiar with the culture and people, yet I would not prefer to stay in the country for much longer.
In contrast to my Spanish influence, I am also heavily dominated by the German culture. German is my mother tongue, although my limitation to be surrounded by the language has made me more proficient in English. I spent 8 years total of my life in Berlin. I therefore have a strong love for the “Mudda Stadt” (a name for Berlin by the Berliners) and believe in its leading slogan: “Arm, aber sexy!” (poor,but sexy – Klaus Wowereit (Berlin’s mayor)). This city is inspirational, I believe. On the first look it might seem poor and dirty, but having lived there for several years I am aware of its special nicks and nacks. It is truly international and promotes free expression. Berliners can be too rough at times, but that is what I miss the most. In Tokyo, which is also fascinating in its own way, I am confronted with programmed and almost too polite of behaviour. I like to express my thoughts in public and receive another opinion directly. Japan does not necessarily have that to offer, making me yearn for Germany’s capital. (My overly positive portrayal of Berlin, must quite clearly demonstrate the strong German influence 🙂 )
In the end I am thankful to be an international student. I have lived in Bolivia, the US, Germany, China and Japan. And there were passions and habits that I picked up along the way from the environment and the people in it. It is difficult to imagine myself settling down in one place for the remainder of my life. Traveling is something I grew up with and is something I never want to give up. I love meeting new people, hearing their interesting stories and expanding my understanding for various cultures. Perhaps this is a reason why I am so drawn to studying Psychology.
I believe I am blessed to be speaking German and English with influences of French, Spanish and Japanese. I learned French for four years and therefore implement certain phrases, such as “comme ci comme ca” (I am feeling not too good and not too bad) and “je ne sais pas” (I don’t know) into my speech. My mother always spoke to me in fragments of Spanish and German. Thankfully, I can now understand most of the Spanish I encounter. I am also looking forward to properly learn the language one day. And being engulfed by the Japanese in the millions I have also borrowed certain words, such as: “daijoubu” (ok ?/!) or “ganbare” (good luck). As a result I speak a unique combination of languages, which offers me the tool to code-switch in certain situations. For example I will speak “Dinglish” (Deutsch and English combined) with my German friends. It might sounds something along these lines: “The other day I went to the park und es war crazy! Irgend so ein Hund kam auf mich zugesprinted and jumped on me. Es war awkward.” The next minute I can switch to Japanese/English with my Japan friends: ,,Oh, you have test tomorrow desho? Ganbaree ne!” People who are not familiar with either language will be incapable to understand what I am saying, yet these languages define me. Having moved around all my life I cannot name one home – therefore I call my friends and family my home. Speaking a bundle of languages makes me feel the most comfortable.
On June 18th 2013, the High School student council held a speech session after school for those students wanting to clear the communication aspect of their GCD. Though it was first presented to us as an opportunity to speak in front of an audience for 5 minutes, for me it was both a chance for me to clear the communication part of GCD and to test my skills that I picked up over the years as a delegate in MUN.
We prepared presentations with a length of around 5 minutes, on any topic we wanted. I wanted my presentation to be something interesting yet beneficial for the audience, so I figured that human behaviour, in psychology, would match both of my intentions. I had randomly come across a TED talk about this topic, which sparked my interests, so I decided to dig deeper into this subject. I spoke about body language, and how our unconscious decisions can affect the outcome of how we think, feel, and act. I read a research paper on how standing in certain ‘power positions’ can affect our behaviour afterwards. It was also mentioned that body language has an effect on testosterone, our aggressive, dominance hormone, and cortisol, our stress hormone, and that people with power had higher testosterone levels and lower cortisol levels. This is all interesting, but how does this relate to us students? Well this could easily be applied to our lives as well, whether it be an in-class presentation, or a university interview. Whether we like it or not, we will all be making a statement through our body language and therefore unconsciously even communicating. By being aware of these power stances, aside from the fact of whether they would actually work or not, this might be able to help us fight nervousness during interviews and presentations.
Although it is always a little nerve wracking standing in front of people, once I found myself up there, the presentation came very naturally. I guess this was as a result of my 3 years of experience as a MUN delegate. It was nice to know that my efforts and improvements in an activity such as MUN pays off in situations such as presentations. Looking back at how I used to be, nervous, shaky, and stuck on words when in front of people, I really have improved my skills as a speaker. Compared to MUN, the regulations were not strict, therefore this allowed me to do more than is possible during our debates. Also, often times the topics covered during the sessions are very difficult, as interesting as some may be, therefore it takes away the attention towards other factors. I think during this speech, I made more eye contact, worked more towards engaging the audience, and spoke more from my own knowledge, instead of frantically trying to recall newly obtained information. Being able to easily say my points while still diverting attention towards engaging the audience and such was somewhat new to me, but I found it very enjoyable.
Since I take psychology as a class, I always read multitudes of different case studies. From biological to cognitive to social aspects, human behaviour and the sorts of functions we have to offer for ourselves is so diverse, it never ceases to amuse me. There is so much we do not know about ourselves, and the discoveries made are always so intriguing. Body language for example, applies for so many, so even through diverse language barriers and societies, it can still be understood. There are always cultural differences and exceptions which changes certain points between a student in an MEDC and a LEDC, however the impact and change the environment can bring about is also fascinating.
Hopefully I was able to teach or at least make the audience aware of human behaviour. This experience was rewarding, not only in the sense that I realised my presentation development, but also the fact that I got to investigate further on a topic I really find interesting. After researching about this indirection method of communication, I started reading more and more relevant case studies that brought about more questions than could be answered. I wish to further investigate on the different research progresses made in the field of psychology, and hope to be able to apply what I learned to my everyday life as well.
The speech competition is an event that all the schools in the Kanto region participate in, including YIS. When you first join the activity, you are given a choice of making a speech in a number of categories, such as:
Once you have chosen a category you go through a quick audition process at YIS where members of the staff listen and judge your speech. They then recommend you for a certain category. From then on, you are assigned a speech coach whom you meat with.
I have participated in the speech competition once in 9th grade, and again in 10th grade. When I first joined the speech activity I decided to audition for poetry, because I felt that it was the most attainable. I enjoyed poetry and thought that because I wouldn’t have the challenge of writing a speech, I would be able to focus more on the presentation, and then perhaps challenge my self in the next year. After the YIS audition I was chosen to do poetry. I then thought about what kind of poetry would be the most interesting to present. I found out from other students that the majority of students doing speech choose to do classical poetry. I thought about the judges and how after listening to 15 contestants repeating the same genera of poetry, they might get bored. So, I decided to take a risk and choose a Role Dahl poem. I chose to do Goldy Locks and the Three Bears. I thought that this was the best decision. I had so much fun preparing the poem, I was able to memorize the poem because it had a steady rhythm and rhyme. I dedicated lots of time in preparing the speech, with the help of Mrs.Clifford. We met on a weekly basis and both decided that each week I would have 8 lines down. I did really well on the day, receiving the second highest score. I was given a gold medal. Going into the competition my target outcomes were undertaking new challenges, because I felt that presenting infront of a live audience was very challenging. I also hoped to develop new skills with my speech making.
In 10th grade I auditioned for persuasive. I passed the YIS auditions and was assigned a new speech coach. Doing a persuasive speech was, I felt, a bigger challenge than poetry because I had to write a convincing speech. I chose to write it about smoking, mainly because my dad smokes and I am passionate about it. I knew that it was an overdone topic, so I needed to find a way of writing my speech that would make it unique. My speech coach advised me, however, to take a more “standardized” which I didn’t want to do, so I went my own way. I used an extended anecdote and focused on fine detail. On the day, I was very nervous because it was the first time I had taken a risk in writing a speech in a way that was advised against. My parents and speech coach came to watch when I presented. The task was daunting, but because I had written it personally, I felt passionate about what I was saying. After the first couple seconds I really got into it. The “acting” came much more naturally, unlike in 9th grade where I had to prepare my presentation. I had certainly developed that skill. At the award ceremony I had received the “All Star” award and was called in the Encore performance. This was very nerve racking because I had to do it in front of all the judges and observers in a very large hall. However, It was a lot of fun. I again won a gold medal.
Reflecting on my experience, I feel that I have have achieved so many more “learning outcomes”. I increased my awareness of my strengths and areas for growth from the criteria that I received after my performance. I also felt that I had showed perseverance throughout both years. The speech competition has been a wonderful experience. I have always enjoyed speech making, so it provided me with a great opportunity to develop my speaking skills further.
Speaking on Physical Therapy in Developing Countries
I think that by doing this presentation, I was able to share the Japanese student’s perspective of this issue and I think that it has also helped me realize the importance of increasing awareness of this topic. They agreed with most of my points and found many of the Japanese government support facts important.
Arts for Life
Fit for Life