“Passion” is a profound concept in Japanese, having valuable connotations. “Nesshin” is written in Kanji 熱心 and it means zeal, enthusiasm, fervour, openness, decisiveness, seriousness. These mental attitudes appear easily when we are passionate about a field, foreign languages in our case. So we could approach the study of a language with passion and everything it involves: enthusiasm, seriousness, decisiveness, openness, zeal.
On the other hand, apart from the beautiful and profound connotations of this concept, its two Kanji (熱 and 心) have their own meanings. The first one, 熱 (netsu), means heat and temperature (fever). The latter, 心 (kokoro), means both heart and mind. In Japanese, inner activity (cognitive, emotional and spiritual) is defined by one word, whereas in English there are several of them: heart, mind, soul, spirit.
I have found nowhere this interpretation of the word “nesshin”, yet by writing the two Kanji one next to the other we seem to get a definition of “passion”: being passionate means having intense heat in the heart and mind. This word can remind us the joy of studying.
Etymologically, “passion” comes from the Latin verb patior (suffer, endure). The Cartesian notion of “passion” motivates us to a lesser extent to study passionately, whereas the two Kanji of “nesshin” can change our perspective and give us an impulse to study with zeal and, at the same time, seriously.
Constant practice is important for progress, and time invested in the study of a foreign language leads to fluency. Apart from the professional benefits, knowing other languages is soul enriching. “Learning another language does not mean to merely learn different words for the same things, but to learn another way of thinking about things”, as Flora Lewis wrote.
Words containing two or more Kanji are common in Japanese, and understanding the meaning of the “letters”/words offers more meaning to the final words. For instance, “to study” is 勉強する (benkyoo suru, literally “to make study”). “Study” (benkyoo) contains two Kanji; the latter (強 tsuyo) means power. Indeed, study and knowledge bring more power: mental power, better memory, academic and financial satisfactions, even improvement of our mother tongue.
These benefits motivate us to study foreign languages passionately (with a “warm heart”), with pleasure and enthusiasm. I wish you to find much inspiration in these two Japanese words, “study” and “passion”. They study much, and it helps them become more efficient and creative. Do your best! (Ganbatte ne!)
Article and photo by Nadia Esslim