Obies Using Languages: Yijia Gao ’19


Yijia Gao (’19) freshman, undecided major. As a Chinese student studying in the United States, she shares about her travel story in Japan and experience of learning Japanese. 


It was 2008 that I first traveled to Japan. Once I stepped on that land, I immediately fell in love with Japanese food, natural scenes and nice people and decided to study Japanese by myself. I bought a popular textbook and started to teach myself all these hiragana and katakana. However, not a person of backbone, I gave up very soon.

Then in 2014 and 2015, I went to Japan several times to take the SAT reasoning tests, which cannot be taken in mainland China. I persuaded my mum to agree that I take the tests in Japan so that I could eat authentic Sushi, Tempura, Sukiyaki, Teriyaki, Yakisoba and so on. I travelled around Honsyuu and Hokkaido, and was bemused because it was so hard to communicate with Japanese people without being able to speak Japanese. Although some of them, especially those in metropolis like Tokyo are able to speak a little bit English, it is still difficult both to articulate myself and to understand them. I could only combine English with some Japanese words remaining in my mind but I could hardly speak a complete sentence in Japanese. After I finished all the tests, I decided to study Japanese again. I took out my Japanese textbook which has been in the corner of my bookshelf for a long long time, and started to relearn it from the very beginning.

Last summer, I went to Kyusyu with my friend. Kyusyu is an island without a lot of big cities and modern people, and thus it’s even more difficult to communicate with people there. I used my poor Japanese and tried to articulate myself but found myself not able to speak as I would have like to do. Fortunately people there are extremely nice and patient that they waited for me to finish a whole sentence.

Now that I am learning Japanese here at Oberlin, and I really appreciate the helpful faculty and passionate classmates here. I hope next time I go to Japan I will be able to communicate, literally, with Japanese people.


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