May 14, 2014

Your English’s Getting Very Good: Munenori Kawasaki and His English

A few years ago, I heard that Munenori Kawasaki, who was a member of the Japanese national baseball team in 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classics, would try out for MLB.

Honestly, I thought that it would be really hard for him to become successful. Although there are many Japanese pitchers showed good performances in MLB, most Japanese infielders failed because of lack of power. Kawasaki, as a shortstop player, is agile enough, but it was obvious that he didn’t have enough power to be in the starting lineup in MLB.

Since I hadn’t heard anything about him for a while, I'd almost forgotten about him.

I'd heard that he'd become popular on the Internet, and so I watched a video about him on YouTube.

In a post game interview, his teammate, Mark DeRosa, called him over, and he just shouted, "Thank you very much. My name is Kawasaki. I'm from Japan. I'm Japanese!"

He was pretty funny. When I saw it the first time, I laughed out loud.

The following video is an interview with him from a program on the MLB network.

In this one, both Kawasaki and DeRosa reappear. Kawasaki read out some phrases from his small notebook.

I laughed out loud again, but at the same time I was really impressed that he had really made an effort to survive in MLB.

English may not be great, but his character shines through. I can’t help loving him.

Recently, I've heard that his English has gotten much better.

The interviewer said, "Your English's getting very good." I agree with him. He has made great progress. What he was talking about might not have been all that important, but he was able to have a conversation with the interviewer, whereas in the earlier videos it was like he was just making pronouncements.

It’s wonderful that he doesn't seem to be the least bit timid or shy.

In the interview he said, "I have teacher. Everyday talking."  I guess that he talks a lot with his teammates. That might be quite important for his MLB life.

I was wrong.

He has an enough ability to play in MLB.

May 8, 2014

The Cultural Trade Deficit: Japanese Intellectuals, Let’s Speak Out in English

It’s often said that the Japanese cultural trade deficit is very large.

Japanese intellectuals who can speak foreign languages have been earning money by bringing foreign knowledge and information into Japan. Most of them haven’t been interested in expressing their thoughts to the world, because it is much easier for them to import foreign knowledge and sell it in Japan.

It’s might not be bad that there are rich collections of Japanese translations of foreign books, but there are much fewer translations of Japanese books. Haruki Murakami is a complete exception.

Through the experience of keeping a blog in English I have realized that Japanese intellectuals should speak out in English to the world much more.

Firstly, remarks by Japanese intellectuals in English have value because of their scarcity at this time. When I write in English on my blog, I found that my opinion was unique because of my Japanese origin, even if I don’t try intentionally insisting on a Japanese point of views. We, as Japanese intellectuals, have a duty to provide our unique point of views to the world.

Now, many non-Western countries fail to build democratic governments. Japan, as a non-Western country, has the experiences of importing the concept of democracy from the West and developing our own democratic government; Japanese intellectuals could point out factors which make non-Western countries fail in building democratic governments that Western intellectuals can't see.

Secondly, we could make our opinions more sophisticated by expressing them in English. When we speak in English to the world, we have to explain things that are obvious for Japanese people. This forces us to think about our fundamental assumptions.

In my blog, I wrote the entry "Is Japan Really a Democratic Country?" Certainly I could think much more deeply about Japanese government by that than writing it in Japanese.

Japanese intellectuals, let’s speak out in English!