Life Is Very Difficult

May honest folk proper.

The pleasure of learning English (part 3)

The third incident that appears to have taught me the pleasure of learning English also happened when I was a sophomore. I was walking on campus when I saw at a distance a Korean roaming around. The moment I saw him, I got a hunch that he would talk to me. I had been spoken to by Koreans several times before. All of them were trying to invite me to a religious event that was to take place near the campus, which was forbidden on campus. So I was going to ignore him, but he said, "Excuse me." All the Koreans who had talked to me before spoke Japanese. But he was different. So I talked with him in English. It turned out that he was there in order to take part in a conference but he didn't know the building where it was to be held. He was just lost. I told him the way and he hurried to the building. Come to think about it, none of us spoke the native language. Nevetheless, it seems that we succeeded in communicating with each other. It feels a bit strange but surely intriguing. 

I believe, again, that this is not an instance of a pleasure of learning English. It was a case where I actually came to contact with a foreigner by virtue of English. I was pleased because I was able to talk with him, not because I had been learning English. 

Then what is called the pleasure of learning English is, as far as I am concerned, just the pleasure of being connected to the outside world. English plays two roles in this. The first one is to show us the distance between the English-speaking world and us. English words and sentences challenge us to understand them. We feel both the necessity and the difficulty of understanding them. The second role is to enable us to do so. English makes the distance disappear and relieves us of the necessity and the difficulty.

If this analysis is correct, a lamentable conclusion has to be reached: the pleasure of learning English dissipates as we improve our English skills. For as we gain more and more knowledge about English and get more and more accustomed to it, the language poses no challenge to us. We no longer feel the distance, the necessary condition for the pleasure.