My Journey Studying 2 Languages While Working Full-Time

Most people like to unwind after work by watching television, hanging out with friends, playing games or just plain eating. I admit that I used to be – and still am! – one of these people. I enjoy watching TV, and I just love lazing around being a couch potato after clocking in so many hours at work. There’s really nothing better than binge-watching a damned good tv series on telly.

But recently, or it would be more accurate to say about 5-6 months ago, this started to change. Priorities shifted. Ever since I signed up for Japanese and Mandarin language classes, I try to cram in as much studying as I possibly can into my day. This means sacrificing my precious TV time. My TV time got severely cut down and when I do watch something, it’s usually in the language I’m learning. Or some light-hearted comedy I’ve rewatched a billion times.

I know. Sad, haha.

Still, I don’t find this too depressing. Maybe people think I’m putting a lot of unnecessary stress on myself and that I’m being too serious, but in all honestly, I find it fun. Yeah, I know that people equate studying with stress and all things boring, but it is the direct opposite for me, at least for this.

The only times I get stressed out by my language studies are when work comes into play. Sometimes I can’t attend class because I have work to do, sometimes I can’t study because of yeah, I have to meet some sort of deadline or attend a work event. Sometimes, these things happen a lot, and I fall behind in my studies. That’s when I get stressed.

And I’d ironically sacrifice classes in order to catch up, because if I don’t understand past chapters, I won’t understand the new ones. Hahaha. So painful to be an adult sometimes, amirite.

The past couple of months have been especially bad, thanks to the chaos that naturally comes when you start job hunting. A lot of time was again sacrificed to prepare for interviews, exams, whatever assignment that I had to complete, etc on top of the responsibilities I already had at the time. As for my new job, things have started to settle, so I’m glad to say that I’ll be properly caught up on my studies soon. Haha! Only took me 3-4 months. Ouch.

It really doesn’t help that Japanese and Mandarin are titans in terms of languages. Japanese, especially. It’s surprising, because you usually hear people complain about Mandarin, but nah man. The true Ruler with an Iron Fist is Japanese. It has so many grammar rules crammed in every possible crevice there is that it’ll make your head spin. To this day I haven’t got a complete handle on particles.

Minor gripes aside, what other ways has taking up new languages changed my life?

I’m happier

For the longest time since I can remember, English has always been my passion. I taught myself the language before I got into kindergarten, I read every English book I could get my hands on, and being the introvert that I am, it wasn’t long before I showed an interest in writing. The language has always been my happy spot, and I think it’s because it’s so rich in literature, film and music that I was initially drawn to it.

What I didn’t realise is that this love can be for other languages as well. I wasn’t a fan of Malay because to young me at the time, it didn’t have all the attractions English does. I’ve always been into the arts, and like it or not, the Malay scene wasn’t as robust. (Note the word “wasn’t”. We’re starting to get there now.) So yeah, it took a long while for it to sink in that I can love other languages.

When it finally occurred to me, it was like falling in love again. And here I am, hitting the books like I used to.

I have more direction in life

Let’s be honest. The writing industry in hot and humid Malaysia ironically isn’t doing too hot right now, and it’s only going to get worse from here on out. Too often do I see job adverts that offer horrendous pay and hours despite the never-ending amount of responsibilities and skills they demand from writers. What’s worse is that quite a number even require working on the weekends. Talk about harsh. Who’d be able to have a life that way?

Now that I have my language studies by my side (as well as globalisation, haha), I have a clearer goal to work towards. As the world grows smaller, language becomes all the more valuable. Sure, I can probably continue to trudge on with just English alone, but I’m going to be old one day, and who would employers rather hire, a younger, cheaper and perfectly capable English writer with other languages in their arsenal (Mandarin is growing popular with the young ‘uns these days), or an older one who costs more and is pretty much only fluent in English? The answer is obvious.

I’ve made new friends

This one took awhile, but once I plucked up enough courage to try out Hellotalk with my shitty Japanese, I made new friends quite easily.

And I found that it was ridiculously easy to find people that I have interests in common with- which is a first, because that’s not something that I get to experience right here in Malaysia. Sad face. That being said, my interactions with my new friends aren’t without misunderstandings; we’ve had plenty, thanks to the cultural differences!

Who knew that communication styles could differ that greatly between fellow Asians?

Reforged an old bond

Unexpected, but not unwelcome. When I started talking to an old friend again, we eventually discovered that we share the same interest in languages- and even wish to study the same ones as well!

It was from that moment forth that we started to spend more and more quality time together again. Like old times, but with a more solid, definitive purpose. We’ve gone as far as to plan (or at this point, dream) to travel together. Because come on, travelling with friends before somehow miraculously getting married is on our bucket list!

I’m fitter

This one sounds weird and completely unrelated, but it is true. Now that I have something that I truly want to devote myself to, work aside, I have the desire to have more time and energy for it. So what better way can I increase productivity than getting fit?

Exercising will allow me to focus better on my passions, and I’m already starting to see the effects after nearly a month of working out. I’m more attentive and I’m not as easily exhausted as I used to be. It’s a great feeling, to be honest. I definitely want it to continue.

Ohhh. This turned out lengthy. That’s alright, though. I wrote this one for me; it’s nice to have a change of pace every now and then.

To those who actually read this and made it this far, thank you!

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7 Things People Always Say to Me

7 Things People Always Say to Me

It has been awhile since I’ve written anything that isn’t a review, so let’s shake things up a little with a vaguely personal post! Here’re a couple of things people have always said to me, many of which they still do till this day:

“What are you?”

Being born a multiracial means many things, and one of those things is that you’ll get a lot of questions probing into the nature of your ethnicity. I’m definitely no stranger to this, especially since I bear no resemblance to any race out there, but there are times when I’m astounded by how tactless some people can be.

“What are you?” Really?

“You’re not [multiracial/insert race]. You’re [insert race].”

Unfortunately, the idea of interracial marriage has yet to reach the minds of some. Perhaps they still live in an era where racial purity is the only way to go, or they just can’t comprehend how people from two different races can get together, especially if the both of them possess different religions.

The level of denial I’ve witnessed thus far can be quite perplexing. So much so that they can go as far as to deny a person’s racial heritage if their looks don’t match their religion.

“You work too much.”

This is a funny one because as of late, it doesn’t really register in my mind that I do work a lot. Maybe it’s because I’ve finally found something that I like doing, or because I feel like I finally have a damned purpose, but none of it feels like work to me. I happen to enjoy my new job, I love contributing articles to websites during my free time and I adore my language classes.

Sure, it can get tiring at times, but in my mind, it is all well worth it. If I work hard now, I can have things a bit easier later, is what I think.

“Mel has no feelings/interests.”

I do. I just can’t be bothered to tell you.

Which probably isn’t a very good thing, if I’m honest. Because I’m big on privacy, I have a natural dislike for sharing too much about myself with other people. Not that I’d tell this to anyone’s face, of course. Instead of saying just that, I’d laugh and joke that I have no interest aside from catching some Zzzzs.

This is a flaw that I’m working on, and I’m slowly learning to warm up to people and make (more) friends.

“Are you gay?/Do you hate men?”

No and no.

Due to my lack of interest in the men that have approached me thus far, and the model-like beauties I used to share an office with, people started to speculate whether I play for the same team. –That said, though, now that I think about it, people have been wondering that since my college years.

Of course, I didn’t help matters by hardly ever giving a proper answer. Let them speculate, was my thought. At least they’d nag me less about dating.

“I’m very interested to see what kind of person you’ll end up with.”

This comment usually comes from people who know me as a person with zero interests. Because you know, I let them believe that.

To be fair, when I was still a stubbornly private person, I didn’t know what I liked either. I have a better idea of what I like now, but even then, I’m not the type to purposefully hunt for a partner. If it happens, it happens.

“You’re going to marry a workaholic.”

“The guy you’ll end up with will either work as much as or even more than you.”

“I can’t imagine you being interested in someone who doesn’t at least work as hard as you do.”

Etc, etc… Not going to lie, the thought of ending up with a husband who is barely home freaks me out, but I don’t think these assessments are wrong either. I just have to look at my track record of recent guys I was interested in… One worked 7 days a week for months on end, with the rare 6-day week whenever he was lucky. So…

I seriously don’t see myself liking a guy who is complacent and lazy about his career, so I’ll just have to hope whatever poor sod I end up with (if any) doesn’t have some job with brutal hours.

But then again, with the way things are now, everyone is a bit of a workaholic, aren’t they?

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Anime Review: ReLIFE

Genre: Science fantasy, drama, romance

Episodes: 13

Rating: 7/10

To get another chance at living an easier, more carefree time of your life. That would be ideal, wouldn’t it? No more worrying about searching for a new job, paying the bills, or any of that old, boring, crusty adult stuff.

That’s exactly the deal that 27 year old Kaizaki Arata gets when he meets a mysterious man called Yoake Ryō.

One pop of a magic pill and he’d be rejuvenated by 10 years- which would then allow him to attend highschool all over again. That would be a dream come true for many. Unfortunately, life isn’t an anime, no matter how much we wish it would be.

Luckily for Kaizaki, ReLIFE is one.

So what is ReLIFE exactly about?

If you’ve taken the time to at least keep up with news regarding Japan every now and then, you might have heard of the term “karoshi”, and in turn, the difficulties found in a Japanese working environment.

For those who aren’t aware, “karoshi” is a Japanese word that is defined as death from overwork, or suicide from work-related stress.

As one of the few Japanese entertainment shows to touch upon the subject, I was immediately intrigued. An anime about karoshi? You can bet I’d pay to see that- and I did.

The story starts with a peek at half-NEET Kaizaki Arata’s daily life. After quitting his job of only 3 months, he struggles to find employment, as companies refuse to hire someone who seems unreliable on paper. He claims that the reason behind his resignation is that the company “does not fit his highest potential” when in reality, he couldn’t bear the thought of working for a black company any longer.

So with his reputation in pieces, he walked away from that job and has been struggling ever since. The situation only worsens when his parents cut off his allowance, and he has to fall back on his only other source of income- a part-time job he managed to snag at a mini market.

It is at this point that Yoake enters his life, and offers him a job opportunity, on the condition that he agrees to be a test subject for a scientific experiment first. This experiment involves rejuvenating Kaizaki by 10 years and sending him back to highschool as a student, in order to fix whatever is wrong with his life as well as to provide a chance of enjoying youth again.

Desperate and running out of funds, Kaizaki agrees and signs the contract.

So that was it. He has a year to fix his life and maybe, just maybe, score a job.

Getting a bit too real in here

Despite the obviously fantastical element, ReLIFE does manage to weave in doses of bitter reality in its tale.

The Japanese working environment is not an easy one, and ReLIFE does not hesitate to explore the hardships it possesses. From sexism, power harassment and disregard for life, this anime lays it out on a silver platter. The content is perhaps not as in depth as one might wish it would be, but it does the job nonetheless. And it is through this that one might get the Japanese’ obsession with the highschool genre- things were just much more simple back then, no?

That said, ReLIFE is not without its light-hearted moments. It has plenty of those, especially when Kaizaki struggles to fit in as a student. Having been out of school for so long, the really-a-27-year-old has completely forgotten what he had learned in classes all those years ago. Maths? What the heck is that? The man can’t remember how to solve third year equations for the life of him.

Don’t even get him started on his dilemma with a certain attractive and jarringly familiar girl in his class.

So is ReLIFE worth a watch? I would think so, especially if you’re interested in the subject of karoshi.

The anime retains a fun, easy-going feel despite its darker undertones, and this makes it easier to watch in one go. There is plenty of humour to be had in this, with an amusing cast of characters and their own stories to further colour it.

I look forward to watching Season 2 the conclusion of this series.

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Beauty Review: Innisfree’s Super Volcanic Pore Clay Mask

Beauty Review: Innisfree’s Super Volcanic Pore Clay Mask

What is it?

Winner of 22 Global Beauty Awards, Innisfree’s Super Volcanic Pore Clay Mask (RM58) has high expectations placed upon it by all who encounter it. Which may be surprising to some considering its super affordable price.

After all, high price = super quality, doesn’t it?

Not at all in this case.

This 6-in-1 clay mask focuses on the following: pore tightening, sebum control, dead skin cell exfoliating, deep cleansing, and skin complexion improvement through its cooling effect. If you’re not sold on this just yet, then take note that Innisfree claims that it is more effective in controlling sebum than mud and red clay.

Which ought to score a hurrah from combination/oily skin types, but let’s take a look at how well it performs first.

What is it like?

When I first opened the container, I was surprised by how dry the mask looks. I have used my fair share of clay masks by now, and this was the first time I encountered one that was that dry. It wasn’t by any means deprived of all moisture, but it was dry enough that it was somewhat hard to scoop out and apply on my face. The texture is drier and stiffer than what I’m used to, but not enough to put me off. As long as it works, it’s all good, no?

And almost as though to make up for its texture, the mask was surprisingly comfortable to wear. There was some feeling of tightness, but overall, it was just… nice. I didn’t find it uncomfortable in the least.

Washing it off was quite easy too. There was no need for excessive rubbing or even scrubbing; the mask just washes off after a few splashes and wipes.

Packaging

While I do not abhor the idea of masks coming in pots much like this one, it does bring with it the concern of hygiene.

Of course, I always make sure to wash my hands before applying a mask on, but constantly dipping my fingers in the pot to spread more of it on my face… That can’t be clean, right? Right.

I would’ve preferred it if this came in a tube.

End result

It is always a pleasure to find affordable products that deliver results, and this was a feeling I rediscovered the day I decided to give Innisfree a try.

And to date, I honestly can’t think of a single Innisfree product that fits that image more than the Super Volcanic Pore Clay Mask. Priced at just RM58, I was happily taken aback by how clean my face looked after I washed the mask off.

If that sentence doesn’t make sense, then allow me to elaborate. After I washed the mask off, I found that my pores were smaller, tighter and for the most part, unclogged. That was not all, though. Thanks to the deep cleansing effect of the mask, my skin was also brighter and enjoyed an improvement in texture. It was amazing.

My good experience carried on till the next day as well, because my skin produced much less oil than before. If that’s not a call for me to keep using this baby, then I don’t know what is.

Quick overview

Pros

  • Pores appear smaller and tighter
  • Pores are unclogged; less blackheads and whiteheads
  • Skin texture is improved; it’s brighter and smoother
  • Excellent oil controlling properties
  • Immediate results

Cons

  • Mask texture is a bit stiff
  • Comes in a pot

Where can I find it?

Innisfree.

Verdict

  • Product rating: 4/5
  • Packaging rating: 4/5

Will I repurchase this? Oh, definitely, definitely. For the price and the results it gives, you can bet your bottom ringgit I will.

Ingredients

Water, Butylene Glycol, Volcanic Ash, Silica, Trehalose, Kaolin, Bentonite, Polyvinyl Alcohol, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Zinc Oxide (Ci 77947), Glyceryl Stearate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Juglans Regia (Walnut) Shell Powder, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Citrus Unshiu Peel Extract, Opuntia Coccinellifera Fruit Extract, Orchid Extract, Camellia Japonica Leaf Extract, PVP, PEG-100 Stearate, Polysorbate 60, Stearic Acid, Palmitic Acid, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil, Xanthan Gum, Iron Oxides (CI 77499), Zea Mays (Corn) Starch, Sorbitan Stearate, Polyacrylate-13, Mannitol, Microcrystalline Cellulose, Lactic Acid, Polyisobutene, Menthoxypropanediol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Tetrasodium Pyrophosphate, Polysorbate 20, Iron Oxides (CI 77491), Disodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol.

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So I Gave in and Tried HelloTalk

Yes, even though I told myself I’d only try it once I’m actually able to converse in Japanese. I’m weak.

But after staring at the HelloTalk app icon on my phone for months on end, I could no longer quell my curiosity and signed up for an account. I mean, the worst thing that could happen is that I’d get ignored, right? Or encounter someone rude, but eh. I could always block those.

So minutes later, I had a shiny HelloTalk account of my own, and without delay, typed up my profile information. I made absolutely sure to state that while my Japanese is extremely limited, I’m more than happy to just teach English for the time being. Even though I’m also there to learn, I didn’t want to burden potential language partners with having to teach me everything from A-Z.

Now, due to the nature of my profile info, I didn’t think I’d get many if any at all, language partners. Much to my surprise, I got about 7 within hours and by the next day, the number doubled.

By the end of my first week of using HelloTalk, I’d spoken to 40+ native Japanese speakers.

Here’re my observations regarding this app thus far:

It’s fun and addictive

It’s crazy how easily accessible Japanese native speakers suddenly are. Once upon a time, the thought of communicating with one seemed almost impossible, thanks to this massive thing called the Language Barrier Reef.

But now, I’m able to reach out to a huge community of Japanese people, and since the majority of them are at least able to carry a simple conversation in English, the language barrier is no longer so daunting.

I’ve had a pleasant experience so far. Most of them are incredibly helpful and I can receive answers almost instantly should I ask a question in the Moments section. Which also happens to be one of my favourite pages to creep on; they’re always posting gorgeous pictures of their travels, both in and outside of Japan, facts about their culture and Japanese language tips.

It’s incredibly convenient

The beauty of HelloTalk is that you not only have easy access to native speakers of the language you’re learning, you can also communicate with them through methods beyond texting. There’s no need to give out your Facebook, Skype, Discord, LINE or Kakaotalk details, no.

All you really need is HelloTalk, because just about everything is there. You can text, send audio recordings, audio call and video call.

Pretty nifty, right?

It’s great for networking

This should’ve been blatantly obvious, but I didn’t realise it until more and more Japanese people who live, are visiting and are going to visit Malaysia approached me, eventually asking to meet up. At first, I thought it was odd for people to so casually ask for meet ups, some even going as far as to ask this in the Moments section. That was, until one of the people I text with mentioned wanting to attend an English Conversation School. I was like, whaaat? There’s such a thing?

I’d known beforehand that there are ALTs in Japan (these are teachers who essentially chat with students to help them practice using the language) and that you can hire someone to speak to you in English for a price, but I didn’t think there’re actual schools for it. English Conversation Cafes too even.

Suddenly, the requests to meet up don’t seem that strange anymore. Of course, I pretty much ignore those who obviously aren’t interested in studying and will only consider those I’ve spoken to for awhile/aren’t creepy. I’ve only met one so far, and that was an interesting experience.

That said, to anyone reading this post, please make sure to meet in public if you do decide to accept such an invitation. A coffee shop is a good option; casual, simple and you can make a quick getaway in case the person turns out to be weird. And remember, that ol’ “Don’t get in a stranger’s car” thing our parents used to tell us when we were kids still applies now.

There’s more to teaching via conversation than meets the eye

So this is something I learned when I was thrown into my first audio call. I manage well enough when it comes to text messages; after all, I have more time to formulate a proper answer/question.

But when it comes to audio calls, it’s a whole different ball game. At least with text messages, I can pretend I’m just texting any other person on the internet- at the end of the day, I only have a tiny avatar that may or may not be them to represent them.

With audio calls, though, it’s not quite the same. Suddenly, there is a stranger’s voice on the other end of the line and it all gets too real. This isn’t some avatar I’m speaking to, it’s a real person. In creeps that familiar first-meeting nervousness and I find myself blanking momentarily. What am I supposed to say?

This is the part where I fall back on fail-safe questions like “Hey! How are you?” and “What are you studying/sort of work do you do?”. Thankfully, I’ve been lucky enough to get rather chatty, if a bit shy (yeah, contradictory, I know, but it makes sense if you speak to them) language exchange partners, the vast majority of which being Japanese men. Once they feel welcome, they seem to enjoy talking- so much so that they often, and subtly, take the lead in the conversation.

Teaching English via conversation… Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? I mean, all you have to do is talk with them so they could practice using English, right? Alas, it’s not that easy. Just like any other lesson, there needs to be a plan.

In a way, I’m extremely grateful for this, because they weren’t the only ones who learned something, I did too. To further illustrate this, I’ve already started preparing a list of first call questions for my next audio call with whomever it may be.

Patience is a virtue

While most of my language exchange partners are able to hold a conversation via text, it’s a bit more tricky during audio calls, which I quickly found out. Due to the lack of English speakers around them, it is difficult for them to put what they’ve already learned in theory into practice.

So more often than not, I’ve had to slow down my speech in order for them to catch up.

This lack of practice also means they take quite awhile to finish their sentences. I have, on more than one occasion, accidentally interrupted them mid-sentence, because I actually thought they were done. Oops.

The Japanese actually have a lot to say

I don’t know if it’s just my luck, but nearly every single person I’ve conversed with has a lot to say, despite their low speaking and listening proficiency. They may not be able to express themselves well in English, but they leave me impressed all the same.

They’re very careful in their thought processes and when they do give answers, they are very well-constructed.

On the other hand, most of my language exchange partners tend to be quite shy as well, so I have to be careful not to accidentally do anything that might make them withdraw.

As proof for how talkative they can be, my longest call lasted for an hour and a half, with the second longest lasting for a solid hour.

They’re also very self-depreciating

Or modest, which is a better word for it. As it is part of their culture to downplay their strengths, this shouldn’t really come as a surprise. But still.

Despite listing themselves as Beginners in English, most are able to carry as well as understand an English conversation via text. A far cry from my meager Japanese knowledge and I list myself as a Beginner. Honestly, I don’t even know enough to hold a conversation.

So, yeah. Haha. Give yourselves some credit, okay? Okay.

There really are gaijin hunters out there

I’ve always known that they exist, but I didn’t think they’d blatantly state on their profiles that the reason they’re learning English is because they’d like to have a white boyfriend.

Okay then. To each their own.

These people are the minority, though. Most female users tend to state on their profiles that they are not looking for romance. After witnessing how they can get bombarded with messages, I can see why.

Like any other social media, there’re pervs out there

As expected. But what can you do about it, huh? All you can do is block/ignore them and move on.

Thankfully enough, I’ve not had to block anyone just yet. The guys on this app are a lot less sleazy than the ones found on any other social media out there. Another point for HelloTalk.

In conclusion…

Despite how often it crashes, I really cannot recommend HelloTalk enough. I never realised how easy it is to connect with a huge community of people who speak a completely different language until this came along. And through it, I’ve found so many who love nearly all of the same things I do than I have on any other social media site- and even, real life.

Really happy, and I already have a tiny personal list of people I’d love to eventually meet face-to-face. Like how often can you find someone who shares the exact same love for languages I do? Or those who have near identical taste in entertainment that I do? Not a lot.

Seriously cool. 100000000/10 do recommend. I can’t wait till I can try this out in Chinese!

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