Emiko A.



Every Friday night from 7:00-9:00 pm I attended Chinese school. I hated it and was bad at it, constantly struggling behind my classmates. We never spoke Chinese at home, so I saw no real reason to be learning it. Despite spending months in Taiwan when I was 8 and 9, I continued to see no point. I used to use every excuse in the book to skip Chinese school and felt incredibly relieved when I struck a deal with my parents to stop going to Chinese school if I passed my AP Chinese exams. During those 14 years, I never would have thought that one day I’d appreciate all the time I spent learning Chinese.

The further I get from Chinese school, the more I am grateful that I spent all those years learning the language. It brings me joy to be able to navigate Taiwan by myself. I feel a sense of community when I can help translate for and speak with elders in my community. As my grandmother’s health deteriorates, I am even more grateful for the fact that I can spend time with and converse with her. Having spent so long trying to reject the language, I find myself craving opportunities to converse and improve.

With that said, I often feel that because of my closeness to Taiwanese culture, I have neglected my Japanese side. As I currently stand in Japan, the one thing I wish more than anything is that I had taken more time to properly learn Japanese. Meeting my family in Japan for the first time, I wish I could converse more to learn about them and our family history. In many ways, I am grateful that my name is Japanese as I fear that without the daily reminders of my heritage, it would slip away. As I continue to gain autonomy over my cultural development, I hope to continue my Japanese language studies. Google Translate has done wonders for my communication, but I hope one day I’ll be able to talk to and email my cousins on my own. Language is my connection to my culture and one that I continue to celebrate.