Study Passionately (Japanese Style)

There is a profound concept in Japanese, and its Kanji reveals valuable connotations for us learners. “Passion” (nesshin) is written in Kanji as 熱心.This word means zeal, enthusiasm, fervour, ardour, openness and availability, determination (in the sense of being firm), and seriousness. All of these mental attitudes surface easily when we are passionate about a field, in our case the study of foreign languages. And so we could approach our study passionately, with everything else that this Japanese word implies: enthusiasm, seriousness, determination, openness, zeal.

On the other hand, apart from the beautiful and profound connotations of this concept, its writing in Kanji contains two parts, 熱 and 心. The first part, 熱 (netsu), means heat and (high) temperature. The latter, 心 (kokoro), means both heart and mind. In Japanese, all the inner activity (cognitive, emotional and spiritual) is defined by one single word, whereas in Romanian we have several words: inimă/heart, minte/mind, suflet/soul, spirit.

This interpretation of the word “nesshin” is nowhere to find, yet by placing the two Kanji next to each other we do obtain a sort of definition for “passion”: being passionate means having some intense heat in the heart and/or mind. This word can really inspire and bring us much joy to study passionately.

In Romanian (and English), the word “pasiune”/passion comes from Latin, from the verb “patior” (to suffer, to endure). The Cartesian notion of passion motivates us to a lesser extent to study passionately. Whereas the Japanese word and especially the way it is written can change our perspective and offer us an impulse to study more eagerly and, at the same time, with determination and seriousness.  

Continuous practice is important for progress, and the time invested in studying foreign languages nears us to fluency. Apart from the professional benefits, knowing other languages enriches us. “Learning a language does not mean to learn different words for the same things, but to learn another way of thinking about thinks”, as Flora Lewis said.

Placing two or more Kanji next to each other is common in Japanese, and the “etymological” understanding of the meaning of the Kanji used offers added meaning to the final word. “To study”, for instance, is 勉強する (benkyoo suru, “to do + study”). The noun “study” (benkyoo) is formed by using two Kanji. The latter (強 tsuyo) means power. And study makes us more powerful, indeed. Mentally, with better memory, academic and financial satisfaction, and even an improvement of the vocabulary in the mother tongue.

All these benefits motivate us to study foreign languages passionately (= with “heat/love in the heart”), with pleasure and enthusiasm. I wish you to find much inspiration in these two Japanese words. They do study much, and that helps them become even more efficient and creative. Do your best! (Ganbatte ne!)

Article and photo by Nadia Esslim


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