Reading something out versus giving an opinion in language learning

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Today I have the honour of reporting about Sakata City’s efforts for hosting the NZ Triathlon team during the Tokyo Olympics, and how we will continue our relationships into the future, in an ‘opinion exchange’ with other similar parties in Japan and New Zealand.

For this, I was given a three-paragraph write up of what to say in Japanese. I was reading the paragraphs paying special attention to the readings of the words. There were two words that I wasn’t entirely sure of the readings for, so I had to check them (機運醸成 and 贈呈 for those interested).

What interested me wasn’t how I was reading the piece, but how I was reading the other documents that came with it, just the simple ones explaining the day’s proceedings. I started reading these immediately after, and I found myself trying very hard to get the correct readings of the words, even though there was absolutely no need to do so.

I have a rudimentary understanding of what’s going on, and with things like these, you don’t need to know the readings for each and every last word, unless you’re reading it out, that is. Which got me thinking.

If your job is only to read something out, you do not need to have an understanding of what is written, you just need to know the pronunciation. But if you are to write something like this, you may not need to know how words are pronounced, but you would definitely need to know not only their meaning, but also how to use them.

In terms of language learning opportunities, I know which one I would fall back on to actually force myself to learn something, and this is exactly why I’m my classes students always have to produce something, whether spoken or written. It’s also why the English skills of Japanese people in general is so poor, they can get away with only performing the former.

Now, if I’m to have my personal opinion shared, that takes a whole other level of skill, so I’m just glad to be given this opportunity.

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