见猎心喜 (Un Beau Monde)
Lit: seeing others go hunting, one is excited by memories of the thrill of the hunt.
Fig: seeing others do what one loves to do, one is inspired to try it again.
Last week, in the midst of a frantic revision session, I decided to ditch the books and, instead, attend a mini concert hosted by our school’s Head Boy. As I made my way to school, I couldn’t help but feel a little smug. It truly was one of those ‘Jimin: 1, World: 0’ moments in which I was adamant about not letting things as trivial as the SATs disillusion me.
The world soon earned its point, however, as the concert reminded me of how vast our world is, how beautiful it can be, and truly instilled in me a sense of the aforementioned 见猎心喜.
The first half of the program consisted of a range of songs in various Romance and Germanic languages, namely Italian, French and German. It is spectacular how music can open one’s creative mind to encompass the depths of another culture, another tongue. As a lover of languages, however, my main source of awe was the representation of so many languages in quick succession. Seeing our Head Boy ‘go hunting’, I was truly thrilled by the ‘memories of the hunt’. After a wonderful hour, I walked out of the auditorium mulling over language, its place in music and my relationship with words.
It’s no secret that I want nothing more than to learn as many languages as I can, primarily so that I can travel one day and talk to people’s hearts, not their heads. What I’m always thankful for is the fact that in this day and age, the opportunities are abundant. I am blessed to have inspiration sitting at my fingertips: people like Tim Doner, for example (I wrote about him here), and their stories are simply a click away. Besides, my exposure to languages in my immediate environment forces me to switch between languages – up to four a day – without me actively trying to seek those opportunities, which makes it significantly easier for me to practice, learn and grow. In short, I am a linguistic geek, and my environment provides me with the liberty to be one.
It came as no surprise, then, that in a sudden melting pot moment of one-part inspiration, two-parts romanticism, I decided to self-study French. I vowed to master the language before I matriculate into college in 2016. To me, French has always been une belle langue with all its rich throatiness and subtle gentility. If Spanish is the language of 2AM fiestas raging on into the break of day, French would, well, be its well-mannered, afternoon tea-eating cousin. I’m sure it’s universally recognized that both are equally beautiful, incredibly complementary to each other and – to the utilitarians amongst us – very, very useful.
Over the past week, I’ve been actively pursuing French for at least half an hour a day. To my surprise (and joy), French has proven itself to be anything other than the impossible feat I always imagined it to be. Its many similarities with Spanish – such as word roots, sentence structures and conjugations – has definitely softened the bumpy ride. But the true highlight is being able to find resources that motivate me. Right now, I’m watching an episode of an ‘educational’ TV show called Extr@ every day. I’m not normally a fan of television, but the allure of spoken French really is irresistible. That, and the fact that the show itself has the most ridiculous plotline helps too.
For me, French is just the first step. With Spanish, French, Chinese and English, I hope to access a wide a range of lands as possible. But after I’ve mastered the basics, I definitely want to venture into the indigenous and more ‘obscure’. Yes, the utilitarian in me screeches every time I think that, but the thing about language is that it transcends beyond utility. If my ultimate aim is to connect with humanity, I cannot solely rely on languages that have gained their utility as a result of colonialism, a concept as far from humanity as I can imagine. I want to communicate with people in the languages of their past, their history and their innate, intrinsic culture; to do that, I’m willing to immerse myself in the less spoken, but perhaps more heartfelt, tongues of the world. Languages that are peppered with idiosyncracies unthinkable to a Korean girl who has grown up in Hong Kong her whole life. Languages that open my eyes to a world chock-full of ingenuity and beauty.
Having said that, I find myself having to add a disclaimer here: I am by no means insinuating that ‘colonial’ languages are bad. In fact, uniting the world through lingua francas has made the many crevices of our world more accessible than ever before. I’m a complete supporter of that. Besides, I’m too in love with Spanish and French – and the cultures that come with them – to ever consider them ‘secondary’ to my quest with language. In fact, they are my impetus and my inspiration. And I cannot be more grateful for that.
So lo and behold! The rest of the world awaits, and je suis prêt!