Japan Network Report by Ms. Wong Shionyee
Contributed in June, 2010

A very good afternoon to our Guest of Honour, Ms Lim Huay Chih, Director, School Planning and Placement Division, Ministry of Education, ladies and gentlemen, fellow students

I regret being unable to be here personally. I am very honoured to be the proud recipient of the Japanese Ambassador Cup. Firstly, I would like to thank my teachers, parents and friends who have supported me all these years and made this day possible.

I recall being addicted to the various Japanese animations that were aired on Kids Central, such as Pokémon and Card Captor Sakura. My dream was to become Sailormoon. As I grew up, I realized that my dream was only just a dream. But I still went ahead with learning Japanese at MOELC when it was offered to me in secondary school. MOELC not only gave me a chance to learn the Japanese language, but also many opportunities to learn about its culture

 In secondary 2008, I participated in the exchange program under the Language Elective Program. There, I was most fascinated by the study of the Chinese classics in Japanese. They analysed the piece by rearranging the Chinese text so that it could be read in Japanese.  It was an eye opener for me. Also, in Home Economics, we learnt how to cook Teriyaki fish, and rice (in a pot, not a rice cooker). Learning about Japanese food culture was fun and enriching at the same time. On the way to school with my host, I had experienced for the first time the rush hour train in Japan. I had not expected the way to school to be any different from Singapore, but I was wrong. Who knew I would be pushed into a train by the train staff just like I had seen in the news on television? The train was so packed there was not even space for shifting around, let alone fall. It felt horrible in the train then, but now I can look back at it with a laugh.

When I first began learning Japanese, I constantly struggled with the oral and listening examimations because, well, Japanese isn’t really spoken in Singapore. However, I soon found myself actively taking part in various events publicized by MOELC, such has “Nihongo de asobou!” and the Japanese Speech Contest held once a year by the Japanese Association. There, I met wonderful friends and had a great deal of speech practice. I hadn’t taken the contest seriously at first, thinking “What, all I have to do is write an essay and send it in to the contest to get a Kinokuniya voucher even if I didn’t make it to the semi-finals?! Awesome!” I’m really glad I took part in the contest. Under the guidance of the Japanese tutor the Japanese Association had introduced to me, I gradually improved and finally, I was able to bag the 2nd prize. Oh yes, I took part in the speech contest 3 times. After preparing for the speech contest for 3 years, preparing for the oral examination in MOELC became much easier.

Truthfully speaking, I wouldn’t call myself a model student.  Although I don’t really remember, my friend recently reminded me that I had really mediocre grades and had made little improvement in my first two years. Until I took interest in Japanese dramas in Secondary 3, and afterwards became a fan of a J-pop group, Arashi. That was when my grades took a great leap upwards.

Now, I will let you in on my little secret to scoring well in the listening examinations. Watch Japanese TV shows for an hour a day while procrastinating your homework— I mean, after you’ve finished your homework. Try your best to watch it without subtitles, or with Japanese subtitles. In my case, it was heaps of Japanese dramas and Arashi’s variety shows. I listened carefully and looked up the meaning of phrases I didn’t understand. Of course, being interested helps. The people in TV shows speak faster than the recordings in MOELC, and they also don’t enunciate their words too clearly. That’s why if you get used to listening to them, you’ll ace your listening exams. That’s all.

In these 6 years, I have always looked forward to going to my Japanese lessons in Bishan despite being tired from lessons in school. Because here, I have friends who have been in the same class as me ever since secondary 1, teachers who, even when school is closed, helped students with coursework at Junction 8 and teachers who took care of us on our trip to Japan. Thus, I would like to express my gratitude to all these amazing people.

To students currently learning a third language, I strongly encourage you to visit the native country where that language is spoken whenever you have the chance to, as it will help you improve on your conversational skills. I have been given such a chance, and I am now a step closer to what I dreamt of when I was small. Although I will not become Sailormoon, my 6 years of study in MOELC has born fruit, and I will study in Japan under the Monbukagakusho scholarship. That is why I am unable to be present today.

Lastly, let me share with you my favourite lyric from a song. I always feel encouraged while listening to it.

“I’ll do my best! Because there are no shortcuts (to success). Today exists for tomorrow”

There are no shortcuts to success, but enjoying the process will definitely make studying easier. There are many ways to learn outside the classroom, and I urge you to find a way that you enjoy. Be it songs or comics, they will motivate you. Please do your best! I hope to see juniors from MOELC in Japan next year!

Thank you.