"The Japanese Language and I"
(Valedictory Speech by Marcus Lim Cher Boon)
Contributed in May, 2008

Good afternoon Mr. Winston James Hodge, Director, Training and Development Division, Ministry of Education, Mr. Makoto Yamanaka, Ambassador of Japan, Ladies and Gentlemen, Teachers, Friends.

It has been 6 years since I decided to study Japanese. My reason for choosing Japanese was simple then. I had completed a Dragonball Role Playing Game that was in Japanese, but the perfectionist in me just could not stand not being able to understand the storyline. Hence began my relationship with Japanese.

It was tough when I started learning Japanese. Even though there were similarities between Japanese and Chinese, the differences were also very pronounced. In addition, many of my friends soon gave up and stopped attending lessons. However, having come into contact with the language, I had already fallen totally in love with Japanese, and the thought of quitting never occurred to me. There were even days on which the study of Japanese made me forget the time as I studied well beyond midnight. In the past 6 years, there have been times of self doubt when I felt that my abilities had begun to plateau and could improve no further. It was thanks to Japanese that I had been able to persevere in the face of problems like Judo injuries and stress from school, striving hard towards my goals.

Frankly speaking, it is still a mystery to me how I have come to love Japanese and maintain the passion for the language thus far. I had not been to Japan prior to my study of Japanese and none of my family members are Japanese fanatics. There is simply no clear reason that I can think of. However, one thing I am absolutely certain of is my passion for the language. It is also this passion that has seen me falling in love with Japanese culture and history, just to name a few, as I continued my study of the language. In fact, I was genuinely touched when I finally went to Japan for the first time during an exchange programme in JC1. “This is the real thing!” I exclaimed to myself. I can never forget the beauty of the nation, and the warmth from the people there. Even though it was winter then, I was perfectly fine wearing just a pair of jeans and one T shirt. I even joined the Japanese students for rugby outdoors wearing just a T shirt and a pair of shorts during Physical Education lessons. Perhaps I was too excited to be in Japan to even feel the cold of winter!

If I had never encountered Japanese, I would have been lost when it came to deciding my future career path. I have always loved learning, but before studying Japanese, there was nothing I felt I could devote myself to doing as a career. To one who feels that one’s career is inseparable from one’s passion like me, there was simply no possible way for me to decide on my future then. However, thanks to my encounter with Japanese, the path ahead is now clear. I wish to continue my studies of Japanese in Japan, and hopefully return to this language centre as a Japanese teacher. After all, what better career is there than one that allows me to constantly be in touch with Japanese and at the same time, spread my love for the language?

Speaking of teachers, I really owe all my teachers a debt of gratitude. Thanks to every single one of them, all the lessons have been enjoyable and I have been able to learn Japanese effectively. To all the teachers who have taught me thus far, thank you very much! I am especially grateful towards the guidance I received for my coursework.

To those who are still studying at the language centre I would like to say: “The study of a foreign language is truly no mean feat. When you are faced with obstacles, remember to go back to your love for the language and work hard towards your goals. No matter what happens, please do not give up your study.” Even after graduating, I am certain that Japanese will still be something that’s precious to all of us. Therefore, for those who have graduated like me, it is not yet time for us to stop our study. This is definitely not the end. As long as our passion for Japanese burns strongly, we should continue on this path of excellence in the language.

A language is a bridge that links people together. That is why I will definitely not stop my study of Japanese. In fact, I would like to study more languages in the future if possible. I am really grateful to have been given the opportunity to learn Japanese. Japanese is no longer just a subject that I love, but rather, an integral part of my existence. Even as I graduate, Japanese will continue to be my companion in life.