When you hear "bilingual," many people may think of returning children or children who have been learning English since childhood. However, bilingual is not just a privilege for returnees and children who have been learning English since childhood. Even if you learn English as an adult, you can fully aim to be bilingual.
In fact, I myself have learned English since I became an adult. When I was a student, I was not good at English, and speaking English was a dream come true. But now I speak English every day and have little trouble communicating. As a Japanese who couldn't speak English at all, I can now use English freely, so anyone can aim to be bilingual.
Here, we will explain the benefits of becoming bilingual and the tips for learning as a shortcut to bilingual English.
What is "bilingual" in the first place?
Before you aim to be bilingual, let's understand "bilingual".
What kind of person is "bilingual"?
I often hear the word "bilingual", but what kind of person do you call bilingual?
Bilingual is a person who is free to use two languages according to the situation and situation. Japanese people can speak another language besides their native Japanese, so it doesn't matter what language they are, such as Japanese and English, and English and Chinese.
However, there are no clear standards for the language level of bilinguals. Therefore, a person who can freely use a language other than his / her native language, such as "English", depending on the situation or situation is bilingual. Of course, returnees who grew up overseas in their childhood are also bilingual, and even if their parents are learning English from an early age to raise them bilingually, they are also bilingual. Bilingual in business, on the other hand, will require both languages to be equally native.
In other words, even if you say "bilingual" in a nutshell, the language level varies depending on the situation and the person, and the field of specialty also differs.
Not necessarily "returning child = bilingual"
Many people say, "Then, children will be bilingual," to those who have been assigned overseas, but not all children who grew up overseas in their childhood can become bilingual. Depending on the age of travel and the personality of the child, both languages may be in a "double limited" state where they do not reach the level appropriate for their age.
Double Limited is a phenomenon in which even if you can manipulate two languages at the level you spent abroad in daily conversation, you cannot express them in either language when it comes to abstract and complicated matters such as thoughts and feelings. People who fall into this phenomenon are called "semi-lingual."
Many children who grow up in English-speaking countries and Japanese children who attend international schools overseas are struggling to fall into Double Limited. Therefore, even returnees are not always bilingual. In fact, I have seen many such children. There are risks to starting learning English in early childhood.
Being an adult, it's easy to aim for bilingualism!
The reason for falling into Double Limited is that a second language comes into your life before your mother tongue is formed. This kind of linguistic confusion begins with the existence and confusion of two words for one thing, and gradually becomes confused about how to use them properly according to the situation or situation.
In learning a second language, it is very important that the underlying mother tongue is formed. If you can master your native language, not only will you not be confused, but you will also improve your understanding of your second language.
Recently, English has become a learning subject from elementary school, but until then, most of it was from junior high school. One of the reasons is that the formation of the mother tongue ends at the age of 12 or 15 (there are various theories).
Adults whose mother tongue is formed do not have the risk of language confusion like children, so it is actually easier to aim for bilingualism.
Benefits of aiming for bilingual
Many of you reading this article will be aiming for bilingual Japanese and English. Let's see what the benefits of aiming for bilingual are.
The world expands
People who speak only Japanese are limited to "people who speak Japanese", but if they become bilingual, they will be able to talk with "people who speak English". It means that you will be able to speak not only with English-speaking people, but also with people who speak English as a second language like us.
If that happens, you will be able to meet people from various countries, and you will have more opportunities to come into contact with different cultures and ways of thinking, which will broaden your horizons. Also, the range of friends will be greatly expanded, so your world will expand at once.
There are many discoveries, such as things that are commonplace for you are not commonplace for people in other countries, and things that are commonplace for people in other countries are not commonplace for you. You can also realize that different hair and skin colors are not a big difference.
Wider range of activities
If you can communicate in English, you will be free to go anywhere in the world. Even if you are not in an English-speaking world, there are a certain number of people who can speak English, so you can reduce your fear. You can travel freely without relying on tours for your travel style. It's fun to rent a car or motorbike and go to a town that isn't visited by travelers.
Expand your playing field
Naturally, if you are bilingual, you will have more opportunities to play an active role. In particular, as globalization progresses, there are increasing opportunities for English proficiency even in Japan. Of course, it is also possible to work overseas.
The amount of information increases
If you can master English, you will be able to obtain not only Japanese information but also English information, so the amount of information will inevitably increase.
It is convenient because you can get the information quickly without waiting for it to be translated into Japanese. Being private, you'll be able to get news and information about your favorite foreign artists faster than anyone else. Of course, you will be able to read overseas news, so you can get details that are not reported in Japan, and you will find sources written from various perspectives.
Makes it easier to learn other languages
You can learn efficiently because you can apply the experience of learning a second language to learning a third language. In other words, you can learn a third language just as you learned English. It will be faster than those who have not mastered any other language (monolingual).
Keep your brain healthy
In order to master English, you often multitask, which activates your brain. There are also studies showing that bilingual people are less likely to develop dementia than monolingual people. It seems that there are benefits to being bilingual for future health.
Reference: Is bilingual for dementia prevention? Future Health Brought by Multilingual Education | Bilingual Education Research Institute [Bilingual Science Institute]
Learning tips that are a shortcut to bilingual
It takes a long time to be bilingual and you can't go overnight. Daily efforts are essential, but in order to learn as efficiently as possible, we will explain the tips of learning as a shortcut.
Build an English brain
If you want to be bilingual, it is important to build an "English brain". The English brain is the "English circuit in the brain", which is a circuit that understands English as it is, without replacing English with Japanese one by one. It's not easy, but it's possible to build it even as an adult. Let's take a look at the tips for building an English brain.
Learn to use the right brain
We often hear "right brain" and "left brain", but they have different memory methods.
Left brain → A brain that memorizes things by "letters" when thinking theoretically about things such as language and calculations
Right brain → A brain that intuitively decides something and memorizes what it sees as an "image"
As you can see from the above, language ability is due to the left brain, but learning using the right brain, which is memorized by images, makes it easier to create an English brain. The reason is that it is not replaced with characters (Japanese).
When you watch a Japanese drama or movie, no one understands it by replacing it with the Japanese "character". This is because the right brain works to understand and remember what you see and hear as an "image." On the other hand, when watching English dramas and movies, some people may be too busy reading subtitles to watch the video. This is because the left brain is working and trying to understand by "letters".
In other words, if you practice watching English dramas and movies like you do when watching Japanese dramas and movies, your right brain will be trained. At first, let's practice capturing images from short videos and scenes from dramas and movies.
Learn english in english
To understand English in English without replacing it with Japanese, it is effective to study English in English. Of course, use the "English-English dictionary" when looking up words.
It is also useful to build an English brain by tweeting in English one after another what you think or see in your head like a soliloquy. The point is not to replace Japanese with English and to tweet more and more without worrying about grammar. I myself practiced it when I learned Thai. Now I talk to my pet in English, and when I notice it, I mutter to myself in English.
Learn English-speaking culture
Learning English-speaking culture is very important because language is part of culture. This is because the style of communication is different between Japanese and English.
"Culture of perception" represented by Japanese is also called "high context culture", and it is a communication style that depends on the context (context, background) rather than the words themselves. A culture that conveys a message with voice tones and non-linguistic information.
On the other hand, "language culture" represented by English is also called "low context (low context) culture", and it is a communication style that depends on the language itself without depending on the context. It refers to a culture in which it is preferred to express things in simple words.
Be aware that this conflicting communication style can be misleading if you don't understand this difference.
Listen to and imitate native English
The fastest way to become bilingual is to listen to words and phrases that natives often use and imitate them. To imitate is to speak like a native. In other words, try to speak with a rhythm like a native, with dynamics and highs and lows. The point is to imitate it as if you were singing a song. It is the most difficult for Japanese people to acquire the rhythm of English, so let's sing English instead of the image of speaking English.
The shortest way to learn a language is to proceed with learning in the order of "Listening → Speaking → Reading → Writing". So when you can imitate what you hear, it's a good idea to move on to reading and writing.