13 August 2014

Multilinguism

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Here's a scenario I bet most foreigners are familiar with in Japan. We often get praised for our linguistic skills, for most of us can speak at least 2 languages (our mother tongue & Japanese).

Japan is after all, pretty much a monolingual nation, which isn't necessary a bad thing. The other languages used here are English (due to US' influence), Chinese Mandarin & Korean Hangul. However, the chances of meeting someone who can speak these languages to an understandable level, is pretty slim on the street.

Once in awhile, I witnessed or heard cases where tourist was rejected assistance by ordinary folks because they could not communicate with each other effectively. I'm trying to see it this way that given such situation that stresses and perhaps embarrassing for the Japanese, they would rather walk away to save all the trouble and hassle. As for the unfortunate tourist, the impression of friendly Japanese just shatters. Thankfully, they are also Japanese who are eager to help out the foreign guests, as seen at some tourist spots where one can find free volunteer tour guides.

Quite a number of foreign expats have bashed Japan for it's overly grammar-oriented English education that neglects the speaking part mostly. I would think that it is because they lacked a proper environment to speak English. To make things worse, trying to speak English publicaly can still be taken as an act of showing off, something against the Japanese's modesty culture.

Speaking as a Malaysian, I think that one of the best thing being a former British colony, is the solid English foundation built up over the decades. While the current Malaysian government seems to be trying to reduce English's influence in education, there is no doubt that English has rooted deeply into the Malaysian society. The fact that the newspaper with the most readership in Malaysia, is English-based The Star proofs this well.

In Japan, sometimes we'll get commented for speaking "funny" or "weird" English. We are speaking Malaysian English after all, and there is distinctive difference than the mainstream American or British English. Only fellow Malaysians or our close neighbor Singaporean can decipher our English. For me, speaking our style of English comes very naturally with fellow countrymates, however other than that I have to be careful not to slip out the Malaysian English in me.

Ada juga masanya apabila kita dalam keadaan yang kurang selesa, di mana kita ingin berkata sesuatu tetapi tidak hendak difahami orang lain kecuali orang sendiri. Masa itulah Bahasa Malaysia sangat berguna. Di Tokyo saya sering ada peluang bercakap BM kerana ada ramai rakan di sini, dan sebab itu BM saya masih boleh tahan lagi.

Walau bagaimanapun, saya pernah jumpa dengan warganegara yang enggan ataupun tidak boleh bertutur dalam BM. Ada yang anggap sekadar dapat "memuaskan" dalam sijil SPM sudah cukup dan ia tiada gunanya di Jepun. Ada yang sudah lupa kerana telah lama tinggal di luar negara. Kadang kala ada kesnya ditanya warganegara lain, kenapa orang Malaysia tidak boleh bertutur dalam BM? Ia amat menyedihkan dan memalukan.

话说中文呢,很庆幸在日本还蛮常派得上用场。在日的外国人当中,有多数都是来自东亚中文圈。有时候他们会被我们马来西亚的华裔吓到,"你们普通话怎么说得那么好啊?"无论是中国的普通话、台湾的国语、还是东南亚的华语,我们都能明白。其中之有一些人还精通方言,如广东话或是福建话等。接受过中文教育的人,学日语时有很大的优势,因为日语本身多数是原自由中文,尤其是汉字。

現在日本に来て6年目になるんだけど、日本語はまだまだ頑張らなきゃ所はあると思っている。学生時代とは違って、今はもう社会人なんだ。会社内の人に対しても敬語でメールを書いているとは少し驚いた。まだ外でお客様との打ち合わせの機会は少ないが、今までの通りではやっていけないと分かっており、自分の日本語を更にレベル・アップしていきたい。

日本では確かに日本語だけで生きていける。でも生活により豊かに、楽しく、賢くやっていきたいなら、もう一つの言語を学習すればいかがでしょう?きっと新たな扉が開くんだから。その他には、短期間で海外で暮らしてみることも良いでしょう。そういう経験を持っている日本人の知り合いは、多方面から物事が見られ、思考も大きく変わるのだ。

日本では伝統、パターン、ルーティンとかは大切にしていることは決して悪くはない。ただ、時代の変遷によって、変更しなければ存在ができなくなる可能性がある。それに、変更のタイミング、方針も非常に重要である。例えば、かつて音楽再生機の主流であったソニーWalkmanは、革新が遅れて今iPodの後ろに追いかけている状態になってしまう。同じくソニーのPlay Stationも、XBoxとの競争は真剣に取らないといけないと考えている。

ということで、ここまで記事を書き終えたい。人によって記事の一部しか理解できないのだが、それはわざとしたのだ。私と似ているような状況の人間なら、解読できるはずだ。

P/S:
Lastly, just to clarify that I'm writing this from the perspective of a Malaysian in Japan. Multilinguistic isn't our privilege only, and in fact there are others who can speak more than we do, just look at the Europeans. Being multilingual isn't something we should be proud of, but most importantly how can one make full use of each languages to it's best potential.

10 August 2014

Don't Judge A Book By It's Cover

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Social network like Facebook has been making great impact in my life, as I've been able to get in touch with lots of friends. Even though I'm no in KL physically, I can more or less tell that my friends are doing pretty well back home, or perhaps somewhere else in the region.

Some events such as graduation, getting a job, or even getting married (pretty common for mid-20s) are kinda common. Once in awhile, there's always element of surprise pops out.

As years gone by, I am quite surprised to see that some of these friends that I used to looked down, are doing very well right now. My judgement back then, was flawed.

Now, I can't help but to question myself over the perception I had towards these particular friends.

Part of the story can be traced back in my secondary school times.

SMJK Chong Hwa

I wasn’t the kind of student that scores great results academically, but my involvement in various clubs & organizations made me a familiar figure among the school admins & teachers. I wouldn't say I was a pet student, but perhaps close to being one.

Being in that position somehow made me slightly arrogant towards some others. I would tend to judge those trouble-makers as nuisance, and those who didn’t did well in the exam as pitiful ones and on extreme cases, hopeless. Because of that, I had conflict with some friends as I would tend to write them off with the “no-good” label. Elitism and arrogance is indeed, dangerous traits for a young man.

PICT0581

However, today I’m thankful that even though we had troubles in the past, we managed to patch things up and remain as friends (albeit on Facebook). It's interesting to listen to their post-school stories and laughed at myself for my foolishness back then.

The lesson of the day, is never ever judge someone too fast based on their current position (especially during school days), as one may take years to be defined or break through. The "bad" boys may one day be a successful businessman, and on the opposite side, a student with stellar results may not end up in a desired position (perhaps stressed out due to studying too much?).

Here in Japan, I've came across with lots of different people as well. Again, the bad attitude did kicked in initially, but as I been through various phases, I think my attitude has improved gradually.

Now, I reserve my first impression towards someone that I've get to know recently, and take a little bit of time to evaluate this particular person. Am trying not to jump into conclusion that quickly and give it some time. It's interesting that based on my own observation, people would change depending on whom they're interacting with.

Here, I'd like to quote a Chinese idiom: "路遥知马力,日久见人心".
It carries the meaning, "one will only know the horse's stamina as the route goes further; one will know someone's heart as day passes."

Admitting that I'm not a perfect individual, I'm trying my best now to patch up the flaws. Right now, I enjoy getting to know other people in depth and trying to appreciate those few that some sort of "connects" together, for it's getting harder to find real friends at this age. :\

03 August 2014

First month getting into the job.

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Just a short write up about my job. For the first month I'm grateful that everything has been going on pretty smoothly.

Contra to friends' stories of workplace abuse by seniors, my colleagues are very nice and we get along pretty well. I only learn that I'm the first foreign employee in the company's Japan branch.

As August is the hottest season in Tokyo, I'm glad that my company don't have any dress code restrictions and therefore we can wear anything to work (sans birthday suit of course).

Shinjuku skyline view from the office.

To put it simply, our company provides SEO service and consultation for clients.
We have external and internal services.

For external service, we assist the client to make their current website getting better search result ranking and increase in traffic (organically), as well as patch up the penalties from Google that dragged the client's search result ranking down.

Currently I'm being tasked for the internal service side for building up SEO-friendly websites.
It isn't something complicated, just maintaining WordPress blogs and try to tweak plugins here and there.

Now that the dots has connected, that all the years of blogging (since 2004) can finally be put into a better use in my career. Of course, given the head start I'll be learning more stuffs in the near future.

I shall continue to work and learn for the following few months, before consulting my boss to get better picture of the company's future plans. At the moment we're under transaction period, so I guess it's better to speak as the company settles down.

My company is expanding to SEA in the near future, and Malaysia's being one of their consideration, and therefore I was hired. At the moment we don't have a timeframe when we'll setting up a new branch in Malaysia, the fastest could be next year, perhaps?

29 June 2014

Job Hunting in Japan

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I'm delighted to announce that I've landed a job in Tokyo, and will be start working from July onwards. Main job focus will be search engine optimization (SEO).

Well, let me share something or two about my experience of job-hunting in Japan.

1) It’s better to start early, but no harm to start later either.


In Japan the job-hunting (就職活動) for university graduates started about a year before graduation, which means the final year will be busy with job-hunting and 4th (final) year projects/researches. In fact, the previous trend was such that students start looking for jobs at least 1.5 years before graduation. At the same time, it's a rather time-consuming process to go through the companies, attending the career seminars and interviews for many rounds...

This may be slightly different than other countries.

Back in Malaysia, the students either started few months before graduation, or few months after graduation (sabbatical vacation in between). The process is rather straight-forward with just a few interviews, compared to a norm of at least 3 or more rounds of interview per company in Japan.

For my case, my plan changed drastically in the final year. Instead of further studying in Masters, I've decided to take a gamble and get into job-hunting.

I started rather late, just a month before graduation in March. Went to close to 10 companies' interview before settling down at this IT venture at the end of May.

For international students in Japan, we are entitled to apply for job-hunting visa (特定活動申請), as the name suggested for us to continue looking for job even after graduation. The duration given is half year, but extendable up to a year (eg: graduated in March 2014, but eligible to stay in Japan til March 2015).

While it may seems to be a risky move, no harm give yourself a little more time to look for suitable companies. From my experience, small venture companies or non-Japanese companies have higher chance of hiring people all year round, unlike the usual period that most Japanese companies abide to.

2) The advantage of a Malaysian student in Japan


It's not just Malaysians only, but generally speaking South East Asian (SEA) students are being actively scouted and recruited by Japanese companies.

With the current Japanese government's pro-SEA stance, more Japanese companies are eager to expand their business to the southern region instead of their closeby neighbours (due to political clashes obviously).

Manufacturing plants in Thailand or Vietnam, and service hubs at Singapore or Malaysia.
Cheaper cost, politically-stable and decent infrastructures are some of the main reasons of the SEA expansion.

The Japanese companies like to hire SEA students, train them in Japan for a yew years, before sending them back to their home country to take on senior positions. My company is thinking the same as well. Some, will stay in Japan to work for longer terms.

While this may not apply on every Malaysian students, the companies and general Japanese audiences are in awe of Malaysians' multilingual ability. We can, at least speak 3 languages: Malay, English, Japanese (we're studying in Japan after all), and some who're able to speak Chinese Mandarin too, made us versatile to adapt to work in different countries as we have lesser language barriers.

Our linguistic skills are highly valued here, and therefore I suggest for anyone out there, try to brush up your languages if you can, especially Bahasa Malaysia heh.




For now I shall leave it here with these 2 points.
Perhaps after working for awhile, I shall post my experience of working a few months later.

15 June 2014

My Adidas shoes collection

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My first purchase of Adidas shoes was in 2004, exactly 10 years ago.

Every pair of shoes has it's own story and represents different eras of my life.

Looking from the shoes, the transaction from football shoes, sport shoes, walking shoes, to casual shoes has certainly suggested that I've been through changes in my life.

Predator Absolado

Year: 2007
Purchased at: Bata shoe store, Alpha Angle Wangsa Maju, KL.

Adidas Predator Absolado

* Classic Predator.

I often wear this back in TARC days, as I was constantly "on-call", as such that whenever I got a message from friend wanna play futsal, I'll be ready all the time. In fact, I used to kept the ball in the car so I can spring into action ASAP!

Now I wear it once in awhile, mainly for futsal games.

Truant ATS

Year: 2009
Purchased at: Adidas warehouse store, Wangsa Maju, KL.

Adidas Truant ATS

* First pair of non-football shoes.

As I won't be playing football that often once I'm in Japan, I thought I could make use of a pair of proper walking shoes.

It served me well but now it's being "demoted" to an extra pair of reliable shoes.

Samba

Year: 2010
Purchased at: ABC Mart somewhere in Saitama.

Adidas Samba

* Never go wrong with black & red.

Rather than heading to school with sports shoes everyday, I thought why not give sneakers a try.

Besides short-distance travel, I wear it for occasional futsal as well. After all, the design is based on the classic football shoes.

AdiZero Bounce

Year: 2011
Purchased at: Adidas store Roppongi Hills, Tokyo.

Adidas AdiZero Bounce

* Long distance walker.

There's another backstory for this purchase.

When I was back in KL for holidays, my shoes were stolen from the house. So when back in Tokyo I've decided to get myself another pair.

The element on the sole attracted me, and it's not just aesthetical gimmick. It works well and the bouncy cushioning makes walking pretty comfortable.

I've traveled a lot on foot with this pair of shoes, especially my few trips to Kyoto, where I walked to most of the destinations.

Though it's worn and torn now, it's not surprising if I've clocked more than 100 km on this pair.

Zappan DLX

Year: 2014
Purchase at: Adidas store Shibuya, Tokyo.

Adidas Zappan DLX

* Smart & casual.

Though I'm still a freak walker today, as I'll be attending more occasions where sports shoes isn't appropriate, it is time to get something less sporty.

This pair caught my attention for it's low profile design but at the same time, comfortable cushioning to accommodate serious walking.

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Some other pairs that I left in KL.

The Predators (except for the pair that I brought to Tokyo).
PIC282

Scorch MB, which was being stolen back in KL, but miraculously found it back again later.
IMG_6005

01 June 2014

Life After School

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* This post was originally written in March 12 back in year 2008.
That was when I'm still studying in college before coming to Japan!


Title: Life After School

I say, life in school is arguably the best time in our life so far, I think some of you here will agree this statement, don't you? (I absolutely stand up for this point, else I won't be writing this lol.)

When you step out from the school compound after finishing SPM/STPM, you'll realise that you might missed out or neglected some of the best moments.... but it's too late to get things fixed now, much to your regret. In this post I'll talk about something that you can do to reclaim back the precious memories, or at least, keep a bit out of the whole chunk.


Looking back at your school days few years later, the nostalgic memories of the good old days will tackle our brainwaves. Ah, the days when you're messing together with the best mates, putting a prank on the teacher, escaping disciplinary punishments, etc.

These experiences can only happen in school, and in your entire lifetime your job as a student is just the merely ±10 years. The next time when you return to the same scene, you wont be able to experience all of it again because your role is different then.


I have a feeling that I should try to jot down all the events, activities I've been through during my schooling days. To my own satisfaction, I've started it when I'm just begin to picked up those co-curricular activities. Co-cu activities are pretty much the best part of all, I think. Also, some events happened in school are worth to take note of, like the Teacher's Day celebration, cultural performances, etc. I've recorded down most of these activities in my blog as a journal. Of course, it isn't just words that speak for the events and activities, some posts are accompanied by images and videos.


Talk about the pictures and videos, I used to bring along my camera whenever there's any events/activities going on, much like a reporter for the school lol. Although I'm not a part of the Photography Club crew, I befriended with them and I've managed to sneak into the frontline take down pics and videos, rather than sitting in the hall watching from behind where you cant really get a clear view what's happening in front.

Do beware the school's policies for students to bring camera to school. Some schools, like mine for example, requires permission from the school admin to bring the camera as they fear students will abuse it for something nasty. So, remember to consult the authority before bringing it.  ;)


Most schools I believe publish their annual school magazine right? It serves as the "official" journal of events happened in the school in the year, also covering the graduates' profiles in it, particularly Form 5 and Upper 6 students. Keeping the school magazine is a good method for preserving some of the memories, though things are looked from the point of view of school admins, which might make the magazine boring for some (admins wouldn't be pleased to have the magz full of students' stuffs.)

If you got the chance, join the School Magazine Editorial Board (aka Sidang Redaksi Majalah)!! Play your part in it to make a better school magazine for fellow students!


Why I'm concern bout preserving all the memories of schools even after I've left school for years? I believe that school is a training ground for us to pick up and refine our skills.

Say, if you're active in school debate team, you might find yourself in a favourable position if you wanna become a lawyer or presenter;


Learning how to run a society/club may prepare you for the future working in an organisation;


Playing your part as the society/club's chairperson or head can build up your leadership reputation, which is useful for further studies and job employment.


If you could see the school's role in this way, then I think you will appreciate all the things you get involved in school.  :)


One of the most important thing you have to do is to keep in touch with friends, regardless whom they are. It's also good to build up contacts early on, as they might come in handy in the future ^^. As I mentioned bout the school magazine, much of the contact details are inside there, just a matter whether it's up-to-date or not. Alternate methods to maintain the relationship, can be easily achieved by IMs, forums, and blogs. Nowadays, keeping in touch with friends is much easier than years ago, just see whether you got the initiative to do so or not. A random "Hi!" or "Hey!" in IM is good enough to start conversation with someone. Unless they hold some grudge on you, else they'll usually reply your message.  :)


I've seen teenagers write about their wonderful moments in school on their blog, accompanied with pics. Heh, if you're one of 'em, try to read those posts again years later, all the flashbacks of school life will struck you again, as if all the activities are running again inside you. I did this, so I know the "feel good" factor, heh.


My ultimate contribution to preserve school memories are condensed into a video I made sometime in Dec 2006, the time when I finished SPM. I'm glad that I did it, as I heard some peers and juniors are doing the same thing after I started it. Glad to have people who holds the same beliefs as mine, heheh.


I think this post might be useful for students who're still studying in school. If you're running your blog in such fashion, then congratz, we're the "same kind" lol. Then again, comments and critics, are welcomed here.  :)


Cheers.