I have studied and thoroughly enjoyed Japanese at UIC. I had first grown into it through Japanese media, such as anime and music, and decided to give formally learning it a try because I had the opportunity to take it at UIC. Like with any language, learning new vocabulary and grammar forms and becoming familiar with the way a foreign language sounds while I speak as a non-native speaker was tedious and difficult, but looking back to where I started, I realize that I have come a long way. The work I put into learning Japanese paid off through my having a better understanding and appreciation of cultural nuances in spoken conversation, or even the delicate diction of lines of a haiku, a form of Japanese poetry.
From my experience studying Japanese at UIC, I have grown to be grateful for the small community that my classmates and professor have formed over a few semesters. Bonding over similar hobbies and interests concerning Japanese or Japan, the difficulties of learning the language becomes negligible. The learning environment that has been created is one that is truly supportive of mistakes and encouraging of growth. Deciding to study Japanese has not only increased my enjoyment of Japanese media but has also provided me with the realization of how important language is in our diverse society. I am currently pursuing a career in the veterinary field; in my observation of the veterinarian who I am close with, the ability to communicate with clients about their pet's health is obviously critical to the profession, but being able to effectively speak with people in the language that they are most comfortable with crosses a barrier with the individual.
Language provides a sense of familiarity and security, especially in stressful situations, and this is part of the reason why I commit myself to the countless hours of vocabulary and grammar while studying another language because in the grand scheme of things, it will be worth it. Moving forward into my life, I not only will continue to indulge in Japanese study but will also work to understand my parents' native language, Filipino.
Taking a language is not simply a required class; it is a gateway to cultural identity and understanding. If I could offer one piece of advice: take a language that you are interested in and personally connected to. Regardless of its "usefulness," or how many people are taking a certain language, learning a language is certainly a commitment that you should enjoy the process of. If anything, I will at least savor the feeling of accomplishment attached to being able to understand a movie or song without English subtitles.