Back in the (L2) game.

It’s みどりの日 today in Japan, the third of five national holidays that make up Golden Week on this marvelous archipelago. I’m sitting in a Starbucks in Ibaraki Prefecture, looking out the window at some beautiful lazy clouds. The weather is perfect. (Actually, I kind of wish I were hiking.)

It’s been just about a year since we opened our doors at 英会話スクールEnglish Garden. In that time we went from zero to about sixty students. Not bad, but numbers aren’t the only measure of success. I’m still unsatisfied (in a good way), and I have some big personal goals for Year Two.

One of the big ones is to learn Chinese.

Over the last year I’ve spend most of my time thinking about how to better introduce English to my students. What I’ve stopped doing over the last year, unfortunately, is being a student myself. As an EFL teacher, that’s a dangerous road to linger on.

One of the things EFL teachers have to keep in mind at all times is just how difficult it can be to understand things in a foreign language. I’m by no means fluent in Japanese, but my ears are finely crafted Japanese sound-nets compared to what they were five years ago. It’s easy to forget how difficult it is to use and understand a foreign language when you first start out. And forgetting the struggle means that, as a teacher, you’re forgetting what your students are going through in anything but an abstracted sense.

As a teacher, I want to remember what it’s like to struggle with the basics.

As a husband, I want to be able to talk to my in-laws one of these days about something other than how good the food is.

So I’m getting back into the game. My Japanese-learning journey isn’t finished by a long shot, but I want to retrace my steps as a novice. So a few days ago I started studying Chinese in earnest. I’ve had a couple of false starts with the language over the last few years, but I’ve got a good feeling this time. (And also some solid goals, deadlines, and all sorts of other social cement that will help keep me focused over the next six months until our wedding ceremony later this year.)

I don’t expect this to go smoothly. That’s sort of the point.

It’s the last couple of days of Golden Week here in Japan. The school year started a month ago, and this is the last string of holidays until autumn. It’s a good time for new beginnings. If you’re interested in starting (or re-starting) a language-learning journey of your own, you can follow the blog here or on Medium, or follow @gardenofenglish on Twitter (and stay tuned for some masterful Periscope sessions of me absolutely butchering Chinese pronunciation). I’ll have lots of practical advice for studying and practicing a foreign language, immersing yourself, and staying motivated.

And in the meanwhile, good luck on your own journey! See you next time. またね〜♡