"Learning the Japanese Language"
(Valedictory Speech by Ng Chun Poh)
Contributed in May, 2009

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
Good afternoon.

During my 6 years of learning the Japanese language, I was often asked why I chose Japanese as my third language. I thought hard about the answer but the only answer I could think of was: “I chose Japanese I am not that interested in the German or French languages.” Until now, I am unable to give the reason for my choice. Before I started learning Japanese, my knowledge about Japan and the Japanese culture was very poor. All I knew about the Japanese cuisine was “sushi” and “sashimi”. I even thought that the anime “Doraemon” was produced in Singapore.

Looking back now, I can say that there was not one dull moment during my lessons at MOELC. The twice weekly lessons were my only form of enjoyment during my stress-filled school life. Even though my fellow classmates in the course quit one by one, the thought of playing truant never once occurred to me. I became more and more fascinated with the beauty of hiragana as I studied the Japanese language. The similarities and analogies in kanji or grammar between Japanese and Chinese also intrigued me. Since discovering the fascinating uniqueness of this language, my fondness towards it developed. There were times when I could study Japanese for an entire day without feeling bored and even happily muttered Japanese to myself while walking around my house. Now, I can remember new vocabulary effortlessly and do not complain even when the grammar gets too difficult. As a result of my passion and hard work, my good Japanese results are often envied, and I will often jokingly comment that I might have been a samurai in my previous life.

Thanks to MOELC, I did not only enjoy interesting lessons but on top of that, I had various opportunities to participate in exchange programs. Through these activities, I got to know Japanese friends and at the same time, my understanding of the Japanese culture deepened. I experienced university life in Japan and the beauty and unique Japanese way of life when I was invited to Waseda University during the JENESYS program organized by the Japanese Government. I will never forget this first visit to Japan with my close friends. The deepest impressions I had were of the ancient temples and the smiles of the extremely courteous service staff. During my stay, I was brimming with excitement and did not feel exhaustion even when I stayed up late into the nights. I might be studying abroad the next time when I go to Japan and I am considering taking up literature in a Japanese university. The path which I have chosen might be different from my peers, and though it may be laden with obstacles, I am certain that I will not regret my decision if I follow my passion.

I would also like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the teachers who have taught me the past six years and also influenced me to love the language more. “Yokoi sensei, Asai sensei, Mutou sensei, Lui sensei, Endo sensei, Thank you very much.” From grammar to test preparations, I have learnt so much from them. “And a big thank you to Endo sensei” who guided me for 2 years during her very interesting course work and speech training lessons.

Lastly, I would like to leave behind a thought for my juniors in MOELC. There is a phrase: 好きこそ物の上手なれ. In our context, 「好き」 refers not only to a love for pop culture but also to an enthusiasm for the language itself. In other words, having a positive approach to discovering the beauty in language is most important. I am sure that everyone who is present today possesses such an attitude. Let’s all continue to hold on to our enthusiasm towards the Japanese language.

Thank you for your kind attention.