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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7 Reasons Why I Started Blogging

7 Reasons Why I Started Blogging

While I’m no stranger to blogging, the thought of picking it up again after about a decade of having next to nothing to do with it made me hesitate. Sure, I’ve had numerous blogs on Tumblr, and still do, but I never really thought of what I do on them as blogging. Not in the traditional sense, no. The content that I post on those blogs consist of reblogs and works of fiction.

And being the private creature that I am, I absolutely abhor mixing my online identity with my real life one. God forbid anyone ask me to share such information with them- they would be duly greeted with an icy stare or my standard “Oh I don’t do anything online” white lie.

But as time went on, it came to a point where I gained well over a thousand followers on one blog, thousands altogether if you total up the followers from all of my blogs, for my creative writing alone. I honestly thought that this was a waste; to have something that could serve as a portfolio, but because of my need for privacy, it’s not something I’d share on my resume.

My solution? I decided to create a blog that I’d be willing to share on professional platforms.

There is more to it than that, though, so allow me to further clarify my reasons for creating this blog.

To serve as a portfolio

As mentioned before, my biggest reason for setting this up is to have it serve as a portfolio. Not for creative writing, however. Certainly not as one would have expected, but yeah.

For the longest time, I started to feel as though I was stagnating, stuck to one field of writing, and thought that I should perhaps venture into feature writing. You see, I’ve always enjoyed writing different types of characters, as it is a way of trying something new to me, and feature writing was simply yet another area of writing I could explore.

I’m enjoying the process thus far, thankfully enough. And while I’m fairly confident in my writing skills, I know I still have a lot to learn. Hopefully my growth will reflect in the posts I type up, especially as I gradually explore more and more topics on my blog.

To encourage self-expression

Despite maintaining a neutral stance on all of my blogs back then, I’ve always had my own opinions regarding hotly debated topics on my dash.

I just never wanted to express them, no matter how much I agreed or disagreed on a certain topic. Why bother? That was what I would think, not at all eager in engaging in the petty arguments that tend to happen on the Internet.

In a way, this is good as it meant that I’d spend less time bothering with such ridiculousness. In another, I came to regard it as a disadvantage. It’s one thing to avoid drama, it’s another to live without a voice. So I chose to improve myself and express my thoughts in a way I think is acceptable.

By remaining as neutral as possible whilst reviewing both sides of every story.

To help people

How many times have I looked something up, only to come across little to no information regarding the subject? Far too many. I’m always frustrated by the lack of details available about certain beauty products, and so wanted to help those like myself the best I can. Sure, everyone’s skin is different, but this is the sort of thing people would like to know. It’s helpful and would be great in assisting their decision on whether they ought to purchase the product.

The same can be said for Asian dramas. While I’m by no means an Asian drama junkie, I’ve garnered enough of an interest in them thanks to my language classes. It would be great for there to be more reviews and recommendations for them, and since there aren’t many, I’ve taken the initiative to toss my opinion in on the humble pile.

Perhaps more people will show appreciation for Asian films and tv shows in the future.

To help me grow as a writer

While I’d love to say that I’m well-versed in every form of writing there is, I’m not. I’m comfortable with writing fiction, but what about feature writing? After largely focusing on copywriting for so long, I thought it was best to polish up that old feature writing skill of mine.

And what better way is there than blogging when I have a full-time job on my hands?

Blogging is good practice for helping me organise and write my thoughts in a clear manner. What’s more, it’s excellent for challenging myself to generate new ideas. A valuable skill that every writer should have.

To experiment with different writing styles

The thing that I love so much about writing fiction is that I get to experiment with different character voices. Perhaps one character is a shy, introverted bean whilst the other is loud and brash- both of which require different tones whilst writing their perspectives. It gives a more genuine feel to the character, and allows the reader to connect with them easily.

Although the differences aren’t as obvious with feature writing, they do exist. Does an article demand a more laid-back, casual tone or an energetic one? Or perhaps a tone so conversational, that Malaysians’ signature bahasa rojak crops up from time to time? It’s something I’d like to play with, if only to show my versatility.

To create an online presence

When it comes to the Communications field, having an online presence is one of the many things that will help you stand out from the pack. I don’t deny that there are many others like myself, hoping to catch the attention of a potential client or employer, but every bit helps. Especially in today’s competitive world.

At the end of the day, however, my growth matters more to me than having a wide audience does. After all, having an online portfolio is the main reason I’m doing this.

I’ve come to enjoy it

Ah yes, and this too. From being someone so reluctant to voice her opinion, I’ve gotten more comfortable with the idea thanks to blogging.

So I look forward to watching this blog grow, and hopefully, my skills with it.

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A Part of a List of Never-ending Goals

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If there is anything that makes me happier than knowing I could sleep in or that the latest season of one of my favourite TV shows is out (Suits, anyone? I know. I’m generally very easy to please), it’s having a goal to work towards.

Now, the goals I’m going to talk about are stuff that are almost completely outside of work. I see them as hobbies to fill my time with. If they so happen to assist me in my career, all the better.

I’m just the sort of person who has to have a hobby, and as it turns out, learning is one of them 😀

Achieve fluency in Japanese

The same goes for Mandarin, but I have a greater love for Japanese. It’s amazing how much the language is tied to the culture, and honestly, achieving a native or even advanced level of fluency in it would be incredible. Of course, I’m aware that I’ve yet to tackle the toughest hurdle -the oh-so-dreaded Kanji– but that has yet to deter me. It’s intimidating, but… best to think positively about it.

It’s just one of the many obstacles standing in the way to fluency.

And really, I’ve never been happier than when I’m in class or when I’m studying the language on my own.  The sense of achievement I get whenever I successfully complete a stage is something I’d like to keep pursuing. So yeah, come on, Kanji.

To make things even better, I’ll be receiving my first Japanese certificate after next week! I’ll have to take an exam, of course, but it’s a step towards realising my dream. Guess I’ll be hard at work studying till this coming Saturday then!

Learn more languages

I’ve always known that I love studying English. What I didn’t know is that that love can extend to other languages as well. So long as I find the culture interesting or there is plenty of good quality media to go around, it’s very likely I’d be drawn to it.

For example, with English, I actually taught myself the language before I entered school. I received next to no help from my parents, and that was fine with me. I was happy to hole myself up in my room with piles of Peter and Jane and Enid Blyton books, haha.

Now that I’m older, I’ve discovered that this isn’t limited to English. In fact, I have a list of languages I’d like to learn after settling my Japanese and Mandarin.

First one is Korean. After that, it’s hard to say, but I have an interest in learning Thai, Portuguese, Spanish and Cantonese. Which ones I’ll definitely take is a mystery due to time constraints, but yeah, those would be cool.

We’ll see what happens in a couple of years.

Participate in a language exchange program

This isn’t as huge of a deal as it sounds. It’s essentially a program available on certain language learning apps where people are able to find native speakers of the language they’re studying and practice what they’ve learned thus far through conversation. This can be done via text messages, audio messages and video calls.

Of course, they have to teach a language in return. Hence the term “language exchange program”.

Hone my photography skills

This one might seem a bit random, but I’ve thought about it and I think it’s a good skill to have, especially considering the field that I’m in.

It’s not something I’d like to solely dedicate myself to, but again, it would be good to have. Plus it also means I can pretty up my blog with much better pictures, haha.

That being said, I’ve already looked up a class I can sign myself up for. Just gotta wait for the next batch to start, and hopefully, it’ll work out with my schedule.

Travel to Japan

This one’s a no-brainer. Japan is such a beautiful country that is rich in culture. How could I not want to go?

Thankfully enough, this one seems to be pretty much in reach. My family and I are planning to visit the country once my brother and I are more fluent in the language. Earliest would be sometime at the end of next year or one of the following years, if all goes well. Goodness knows it’s hard enough for us to find time when we’re all free, so who even knows when it’ll happen.

Improve my drawing skills

This one’s been up there for a long while now, and because it’s more of an idle side interest than anything else, I wonder if it’ll even happen. But yeah, when I was younger, I used to want to become a comic book artist.

It seems very silly when I think about it now, how I used to draw pages and pages of comics to sell and how I was successful at it too. Parents even called in to complain because their kids were buying too many of it! HAHAHA. That was a funny time.

Even though I’ve lost interest in becoming an artist, drawing still remains a small hobby of mine. It would be nice to have it taken to the next level.

Insert more skill acquisition here

Graphic design, more in depth Adobe Photoshop skills, more and more certificates… Even thinking about these things makes me wonder if I’ll even have the time or energy for the majority of them. It’s not as though I’m a student anymore, but that’s alright. At least this means I have stuff to look forward to after work.

Ah, well. I think that’s about it for now. There are more things I could add to this list, but right now, my Japanese textbooks are waiting for me.

Till next!

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