Learning Languages With Uncle Polyglot


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  • Tokyo Podcast continues its Japanese Language Series by talking to Yushi Shinoda a.k.a Uncle Polyglot, a Japanese who speaks 5 languages. Yushi developed an interest in languages at a very young age when he started studying English and Chinese. An opportunity to study in China cemented his love of languages and he has been adding to his repertoire ever since. Yushi shares how he was able to learn so many languages and offers suggestions on how to improve one’s language learning ability.
  • Joining the show is John Gauntner, an expert on Sake. He talks about his unique start into the world of sake and about his professional sake course.

Mt. Takao Adventure

Anthony gave a quick thank you to everyone who thumbs-up his video trip to Mt. Takao. He was unsure how subscribers would react to getting a video file but feedback tells him that the audience enjoyed it. Japan is a video and photographer’s paradise, so this encourages Anthony to create more videos as he also relishes creating these. To view it, just search in iTunes and subscribe to Tokyo Podcast or check its website and let Anthony know what you think.

Into the World of Sake

Anthony introduced on the show the only non-Japanese certified Master of tasting sake John Gaunter. He attained the sake expert certification from Japan National Research Institute for Brewing. Wildly known for making the sake popular in the west, John has been a long-time resident of Japan and recalled how he ventured into the sake world.

John came to Japan in 1988 as an English teacher under the Ministry of Education’s JET program. He had no particular interest in sake nor did expect to stay long. But when someone introduced him to half a dozen brands of sake on New Year’s Day, his life changed. He became very interested in its taste and how it was produced. He got involved in its brewing and tasting. At one point, he was drinking with someone who worked in Japan Times who asked him if he could write a piece on sake. Soon enough, he was asked to write a column for years until an offer to write a book also came along. He ended up doing some research, tasting, and visiting breweries overseas in the process.

Wanting to introduce sake to others, he began to conduct monthly seminars about sake. It became popular abroad, especially among those who sell sake as it gave them the confidence to sell it. John put together a 5-day comprehensive package where one can learn extensively about sake and its brewing process. Participants can expect to take on a topic then taste a sake relative to it. John takes participants down to Japan’s western region where many of the breweries are. At night, they go out and drink the best sake out there.

John also offers some tips on how to best enjoy sake. Check out John’s website Sake World for schedules of the course as it is conducted for 2-3 times a year in Japan and overseas.

A Polyglot Speaks

The show’s guest Yushi Shinoda is famous for making videos of himself speaking at least 5 languages. Born and raised in Japan until he was 12, he then moved to China for 6 years and lived in other counties like the US, Switzerland, and Singapore.

Moving to these countries compelled Yushi to prepare himself beforehand. He studies the language before coming to a country so that he would not have to start from scratch. His fascinating for learning new languages stem from the way how beautiful each sounded to him.

This made him want to deepen his knowledge of the language such as Chinese and explore ways to get to China. His father was able to find him a place to stay and learn in Shanghai where he got enrolled in a local middle school. Despite having learned some lessons, he was not able to speak fully and had no idea what the teachers said. Good thing he had a good pronunciation so his classmates were able to understand him.

Given his young age then, he was able to pick up the language quickly as compared to other languages he learned later on. It also helped that the Chinese and Japanese languages are similar such that kanjis are used by both languages.

For learning English, he tuned in to NHK lessons and radio programs which are mostly on everyday conversations and little stories. His English classes in China were slightly more intensive than the ones offered in Japanese schools. Yushi stated that he forces himself to talk to foreigners and do monologues with himself until today. While he is also self-conscious of making mistakes, it was natural and is a good opportunity to challenge oneself. When he was able to make himself understood, he got addicted to that sensation. This helped him build his confidence. He also loves that he can enjoy watching Hollywood movies and understand the idioms or slang used. He acknowledged that he struggled more with English as he found its pronunciations and vocabulary extremely difficult. It also took him a lot of patience and exercise, employing boring methods such as flashcards. Thus, having a goal or motivation is important. Rewards for himself kept him going and having fun at the same time.

Yushi has also been studying French out of personal interest. Another beautifully spoken language, Yushi studied French while in Singapore as there were many French textbooks there. It also proved to be another challenging language with its guttural sounds. He eventually found a children’s textbook with an audio CD which helped him with his pronunciations.

While Yushi recognized that he may have some talent in learning a language, he stated that if one puts his heart into it, anyone can do it. Together with hard work, dedication, and a real joy for whatever language one is learning, it is not impossible. Yushi also noted that he was never afraid of being different. Adopting the inclination to simply blend in with others can sometimes limit one’s learning ability. To embrace being different is sometimes the bigger challenge.

If you enjoy listening to people speaking different languages and would like to know how to improve your language learning abilities, check out Yushi’s YouTube channel Uncle Polyglot for more tips!

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