Why did you choose to concentrate on Nihongo?
“After graduating, I found out that there were only a few people with jobs related to Nihongo; so instead of pursuing Law or International Studies, which I originally planned to do, I decided to be a Japanese language teacher/interpreter/translator. I guess I just wanted to be different at that time. However, due to a lack of Nihongo teachers and people who can interpret and translate to and from Nihongo, I was able to work in different schools and companies and was able to teach people from different walks of life.
“This experience gave me a chance to know many kinds of people and, eventually, through my interaction with them, I was able to find my purpose for teaching and pursuing Nihongo and not any other language. I decided to teach Filipinos Nihongo so they can use it to promote the Philippines and our culture to a wider audience.
“Japanese people are not the only ones who can speak Nihongo. There are more than a million people around the world who know the language and Nihongo is the third most widely used language online. With this range, I thought my students could reach more people in talking about their country and culture.
“I was able to travel to different countries because of pursuing a career in Nihongo. I often use it to talk about our country and culture with the people I meet. I learned that I couldn’t have reached as many people with only English.”
What have been your work experiences?
“My work experience basically centered on teaching languages. Even as a college student, I took part-time jobs teaching English and Filipino to Koreans and Japanese people and Nihongo to Filipino IT engineers working in Japanese companies.
“I found a job related to teaching high school teachers and developing materials for high school students at the Japan Foundation, Manila. There, I worked with teachers from different universities and language experts from Japan. We developed materials for high school teachers and students, focusing on how the Filipino youth can use Nihongo together with English and Filipino, in promoting the Philippines and its culture, in contributing to their country’s progress and in planning for their own bright future. I am very happy and I feel very lucky to have been a part of this important job.”
What’s your advice to people who want to study Nihongo?
“My advice would be my discoveries as a learner. Learning and improvement happen when you try to use the language with someone. Just knowing the grammar and not using it is not enough. Even if one of you forgets a word or finds it difficult to express something in a sentence, struggling to understand each other and helping each other to speak is actually very important in getting better in speaking a foreign language. There is no learning if you don’t make an effort to use it. When you don’t make an effort to speak in Nihongo, for example, the listener also hesitates to speak in Nihongo and sometimes he/she will even hesitate to speak to you at all.
“…struggling to understand each other and helping each other to speak is very important in speaking a foreign language.”
“What is your purpose for learning to speak the language? To communicate, to negotiate, to make friends? Knowing and being able to pinpoint your purpose and goal is also important and taking that one small step of courage to speak is just as important in order to realize your purpose and goal.”
What other languages do you speak?
“I can speak English, Filipino, and Cebuano.”
What do you like about Japan?
“I like Japan for how their old and modern culture blend so well, even now. Before my first trip to Japan, I had this image of a very modern place with a lot of robots and machines working and gliding around the city like the ones you see in sci-fi movies. However, the first time I came here, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of nature. Indeed, there are modern buildings, but you can still see a lot of trees, a lot of old temples, and a lot of old shops that take you back to the era of the samurai.”
What’s your favorite place in Japan?
“I have been to Japan several times. I have also traveled across the country. I have been to several places, but I would say that Tokyo holds a special place in my heart. It’s the first place I’ve been to in Japan and it’s the longest I’ve ever stayed in. It’s here where you can see the beautiful blend of the old and new. A lot of people say that Tokyo people are cold and snobbish, but I like it as a contrast to the Filipino culture. In Tokyo, I can be invisible and just enjoy my time and my surroundings.”
Let me end with another quote. Ludwig Wittgenstein said, “The limits of my language are the limits of my world.” Unquote. In learning and mastering another language, RinRin Palma Gil has found her world to be unlimited.