Friday, 14 October 2016

'Why I Want to Study at GenkiJACS' Competition Entry

Japanese has been a language that has long held me in awe, aided in no small part by my longtime love of manga, anime and Japanese pop-culture in general. As a writer, language itself is something that continues to fascinate and mystifie me no matter how sharply I try to hone my skill with it. One of the reasons why is probably because the great lottery of birth decided that my mother-tongue would be English, which is the largest language in the world by word-count and probably the most difficult language to learn for non-native speakers. This doesn’t make all other languages inferior, of course. As we know from our many loanwords from French and German like déjà vu and doppelgänger, there are still countless more expressions, experiences and subjects that English, even with its vast volume of words, has failed to invent an original term for. These are, in the end, all words are: noises used to express and describe ourselves, our world and its many aspects to each-other. In this respect, ALL words are adjectives, because all words are ‘describing words.’ Japan, it’s culture and language has been of particular interest to westerners for centuries. Just like the Arabs, the Japanese have historically believed that the written word can be a work of art as well as form of communication. And along with the Babylonians, the ancient Japanese also discovered the merits of a writing system using characters to symbolise sounds rather than complete words, just as modern European languages do (English included). This is what would later set the hiragana alphabet apart from its mainland Chinese roots, and why it remains beautifully simple in comparison. Japanese words in particular seem to be very pleasing to the western ear, and this is probably the reason why taste-experts are now beginning to substitute the word umami for the english savoury
Unfortunately, I have never been able to study Japanese formally, so a lot of it still remains an intriguing mystery to me. What are some lesser-known words that cannot be directly translated to english, I wonder? What other homophones are there besides kumo? Exactly how much do certain regional dialects differ from standard Japanese and what are some of their shibboleths? How many, if any, so-called ‘false friends’ are there? These are all things that I would love to study in close detail some day, and actually studying them in Japan itself at a school as prestigous as GenkiJACS would be a dream come true, as its small classes and focus on the individual would be ideal learning-conditions someone like me who has learning disabilities.
- Töck

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