Masumi (Japan)

During the International Coastal Cleanup Day in Coney Island, Brooklyn, I got a chance to meet and volunteer as part of this effort with Masumi from Japan, the country of blooming sakuras. She wasn’t much talkative first, but after we had been done with cleaning our part of the coast, we had time to get to know each other a bit and this shy girl was kind enough to share the story of her life and that of Japan through her own unique perspective. It might have been part of that charming and enchanting mystery of the Asian identity that made her across as overly reserved and modest. To me, this girl looked as if she needed some reassurance and support as I might imagine that would be hard to be away from home for someone so young. Masumi is an undergraduate student who will be studying at Baruch College in NYC for the next ten months. After we shared a substantial meal at Nathan’s, a classic American hot dog place, Masumi told me that unlike most people in Japan, she started learning English at a very young age at a private English immersion school where most subjects were taught in English. As a result, eventually she found listening to be the easiest part of learning, but speaking seemed to cause a lot of difficulties as there wasn’t much chance to actually get to speak the language outside the classroom. I was surprised to learn that in a country like Japan where there would a need to export increasing numbers of emerging technologies and thus integrate English as a means of business communication, this world’s lingua franca isn’t quite popular. It might have to do with the country’s geographical isolation. Masumi assumes that having a working knowledge of English would help her through her future professional life. After having been here in the USA for a month, she can’t say her English has improved a lot, but she feels that she is now more comfortable making mistakes as that is something that foreigners can get away with. To get even more career prospects in the future, at her college here Masumi is also studying the national language of the neighboring China which she actually finds more challenging to learn due to its similarity to Japanese. As there are not so many Japanese people in NYC, I’m sure Masumi will have a lot of opportunities to practise her English and as she puts it, to be a bit more “selfish” speaking it. Good luck to this nice young girl!