Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Learning Japanese on the Field

I am not into sport at all, but the following article is about what motivates people to learn another language.

Tommy Manzella is a US baseball player, a shortstop for the Astros. The shortstop is often considered the most dynamic defensive position in baseball because more balls go to the shortstop than any other position.

But he still has time for his index cards. On his team is Matsui, the veteran Japanese second baseman who's in his third year with the Astros. Matsui can speak some beginner English, but Manzella wants to learn to speak to him in his own language. So he is working with Matsui's interpreter and jots down a few words every now and again. He is not aiming at being fluent - he just wants to be able to communicate.

I give him Kudos for that. Most of the words he has learned are at least baseball-related and concern defensive positioning on the infield or the best way to feed balls to Matsui while covering second base. He's also learned some numbers and question words.

What got him into it? A former team manager who worked in Japan told him "it goes a long way as far as your relationship if they see you, not only them trying to make an effort to learn your language, but you making an effort to learn their language. That's the kind of people they are. They show that as a sign of respect. "I was thinking that might be a good idea [to learn a couple words a day]. I think it's good to try to learn a new language because you never know when you're going to need it. I've got a situation here where I have someone I can go to every single day and say, 'Hey, is this right?' and he can help me out. If you wanted to do that normally, you'd have to pay a lot of money to have that kind of a system."

Sign of respect. You never know when you might need it. And it doesn't just apply to the Japanese. It applies to everyone. So if you are doing business (or just playing golf) with someone who is not from an English-speaking background, it pays to know the lingo.

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