If you’ve been reading long enough, you’ll know that in a galaxy far, far away I immersed in Japanese for about seven months. I ended up walking away from it for several reasons, but something I didn’t know at the time is how great the dividends would be from any time spent learning an L2 (if you do it the r̶i̶g̶h̶t̶ fun way). I went to the Japanese bookseller Book Off with some friends today, and found that they had marked down their Blue Hearts CDs to $5 a pop, and had a Rip Slyme 2-disc compilation for $10. I locked down those suckers faster than the LAPD locked down questions about going Waco on Christopher Dorner.
If you spend all your time a-grammar-crammin’ and end up walking away from a language, you’ll be (correctly) left with a bad taste in your mouth: “all that suffering for nothing.” If you learn your L2 the way you learned your L1 (fun & games), then even if you decide a language isn’t for you, you’ll still get something amazing out of it. I found cool TV shows, movies, video games, and music that I never would’ve known about if I hadn’t gone at it with the childlike spirit of an explorer. My friends often ask me “How do you know about all these awesome foreign movies?” Recently a girl in my car asked me what I was listening to and I said “The Blue Hearts… um, a badass old Japanese punk band.” Next in the shuffle was BB Brunes – “a French rock group” – and then Drunken Tiger – “Korean’s most famous rapper.” She looked confused, and then it hit me- it was weird to her, and would be to most people, because they don’t do what we do. We play, we game, we rock out with our appendages out, and find things that are completely off the radar for most people. We’re god damned Marco Polos, and we find some amazing stuff. If people don’t get it, or if you don’t end up sticking with your L2 forever, then so be it. There are other girls, other mountains, and the sun is going to come up tomorrow.
So have fun.
That kid inside you who used to put on an army helmet, grab a stick, and explore the forest behind the baseball fields is still alive. School couldn’t kill him; your job couldn’t kill him; your peers couldn’t kill him; your culture can’t reach him. Your heart is the last thing to age.
*Amazing photo by good friend / motion graphics wizard Chris Culp.
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