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Seeking a bridge between Japan and Spain

Seeking a bridge between Japan and Spain

"My favorite sport is soccer," said Ms. Tsuji, laughing and showing off her white teeth. While she was going to Yokohama F-Marinos matches with her father - also a soccer fan - she "became absolutely enthralled by the sport." At the international school that she attended since she was four years old, taking a second foreign language was compulsorily. The reason that she chose Spanish was that she wanted to "be able to talk with world-class soccer athletes." As a result of her hard work, she reached a level of proficiency in which daily conversation was no challenge. Ms. Tsuji says that the way to improve foreign language proficiency is to carry a dictionary with you wherever you go and to make time to encounter the language. "Building up language skill is like building up muscle. If you don't work it a little every day - and a little is all it takes - it ends up weakening." An English-Japanese-Spanish trilingual, Ms. Tsuji finds her English-Spanish dictionary to be a precious companion. This companion, however, has become rather tattered due to their time of over ten years together. She also caries around an electronic dictionary, but her English-Spanish dictionary is the dictionary that "I reach for during the important times," she said with a smile.

When Ms. Tsuji became capable of understanding Spanish news and newspaper articles, she found herself wanting to actually talk. That was when she heard about the Spanish speech contest held by the Japan-Spanish Society. She became a finalist in the competition with her speech "La Holgura Espanola/Spanish Comfort." "As I came to know more and more about Spanish culture through the language, I came to feel the difference in our perception of the concept of time." Rather than working their schedules around time, Spanish people treasure the rhythm of their daily lives above anything else. "As a Japanese person, it's normal to decide what time you're going to wake up based on the time of the train that you are going to ride, but for a Spanish person it's different. For a Spanish person, it's normal to decide what train you're going to ride based on what's available when you want to wake up." At first, Ms. Tsuji was perplexed by this way of thinking. However, as the saying goes, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. "The holding of siestas is actually done in order to facilitate efficient working at one's job during the afternoon. Soccer matches are started during the late evening so that everyone is able to watch. That's why public transportation and shops are open even during the middle of the night. Spanish customs that seem absolutely impossible to a Japanese person are born because of the importance of time to the individual." Her speech that expressed the idea that "perceiving the time of the individual is precious leads to the creation of a flow of time that allows leeway and comfort within one's heart" won an award from the Asahi Shimbun Company.

She also had the choice to further her language studies, but she chose instead to enter the School of Sport Sciences. Her reasoning was that she loved sports, including soccer, and wanted to gain more expertise. In addition, even though she worried that her lack of experience would lead to her being unable to enter, she also made it into the Waseda University Women's Association Football Club. She participates in club activities six days a week. Currently, in addition to devoting her time to teacher-training studies, she also has her hands full studying Spanish and working a part time job as a private tutor. In the future, she says that she hopes to attend a graduate school in Spain and find a job where she can use her language skills in a field related to sports. Ms. Tsuji once again showed her resolve to one day herself become just like Mr. Florent Dabadie, the interpreter and right hand man of former Japanese coach Mr. Philippe Troussier.

(Offered by WASEDA WEEKLY)

Ms. Shoko Tsuji

Born in Kanagawa Prefecture in 1988. Graduated from International Christian University High School and is currently a fourth year student of the School of Sport Sciences. She is also enrolled in Associate Professor Masayuki Ishii's seminar, "The Theory of International Sports Culture," and plays forward in the Waseda University Women's Association Football Club. She received an award from the Asahi Shimbun Company at the 44th Prince Takamado Cup All-Japan Spanish Speech Contest that was held in November 2009. She is also a big fan of the Yokohama F-Marinos. Her hobbies are traveling, language study, and watching films. She is currently also challenging herself by learning Italian and Basque. Her favorite film is "L'auberge Espagnole," or "The Spanish Inn" (produced in 2001 in both Spanish and French).