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I Chose The Free Option

Anna Gray is TWICE’s intern. She is currently attending Brooklyn College and will give her insight via several blog entries into how she goes about buying CE and CE-related products.

It seems to me that in order to succeed today, you need to have one thing. No, not an iPhone, although that would be useful too. I’m talking about a second language.

If you’re lucky enough to have grown up in a multilingual household, I hope you took full advantage of it as I think it is a lot better than learning a language in school.   I personally got sick of Spanish being forced down my throat and started my own little rebellion by learning Japanese instead. In hindsight, that probably wasn’t the smartest move, but I was enticed by the sushi — which doesn’t have to be raw — and … wait for it … Naruto.  Come on! Who hasn’t wished to be a ninja at one point or another?

Sure, you could use Google Translate, but who has time to look up every phrase? Also, with Japanese, you have to learn three new systems of writing, one of which can be said in many different ways — makes your head hurt doesn’t it? My first thought was to purchase translation software from Japan that works with Nintendo DS and requires you to draw the characters you’re searching for, but, it seemed both frustrating and needlessly time-consuming.

I was so happy to hear the report out of Japan’s Docomo group about their new real-time text-translating goggles … until I learned they wouldn’t be out at least until Japan hosts the Olympics in 2020 — definitely not in time for my long-awaited maiden voyage to Osaka this Christmas.  

I’ve been pleading with my parents to let me go for years. Their chief concern was my command, or lack thereof, of the Japanese language. So what is a poor college student to do to sway her concerned parents about the dangers of bumbling around a foreign country? Well, go with a friend, of course, and learn the language on her own!  In fact, this winter I’m taking the plunge and going in head first. Hopefully the necessity of using the language will quell my fears. I would have loved to try Rosetta stone first, but frankly that’s about two-thirds of my plane ticket.

Taking a college course was an option, especially since most schools require language credits to graduate, but textbooks are expensive and not all colleges offer Japanese.

College students are probably online too much anyway, so why not be productive? There are plenty of sites geared expressly toward language exchange, SharedTalk by Rosetta Stone for one. I took my search to social media. There are tons of Facebook pages dedicated to anime characters and just about every aspect of Japanese culture one can think of. To get in even more practice once you’re comfortable, you can take those conversations to Skype or OoVoo, which offers group video chat.

The best part is that it’s all free.  So not only are you discussing topics that interest you, you’re also learning the language from people your own age. That helps in a few ways. First, because you’re learning about things you like, you feel less pressured. Second, instead of memorizing phrases like “Where is the Post Office?” you’ll learn to think in your desired language because you want to express yourself. Once you’re hooked on the language, learning the more “important” things is only a hop, skip and a jump away. Third, and most important of all, you will learn colloquial speech.  Unless you’re doing business, you don’t need to be stoic, and as a college student, I’ve gotten my share of weird looks for speaking just like that – a textbook-engineered robot.

Recently, I’ve even gotten into the app craze with BBM and another called Line, where I’ve found a large Japanese community. It’s fun and colorful with cool stickers for every mood and activity. As an added incentive to use the service, they even have their own host of addictive mobile games and something I absolutely loved about BBM when it first came out and I actually had a BlackBerry: You’ll know when the other person has read your message. 

So please don’t ignore this message; cheap language software is the way to go.