Language journeys and memories

[Was tapping out a comment here when, as usual, I let my thoughts and memories run away from me, and ended up with a lengthy and embarrassing exercise in nostalgia.

But since I’ve already written it, guess I’ll just place it here instead.


… I remember I did my Japanese and HCL without any issues; but that was quite some time ago when there were much fewer students offering these subjects.

I actually wanted to take French, mainly because I really wanted to read Rabelais’s Gargantua and Pantagruel and travel it’s ‘phantastic’ world in the original language. But father was adamant that Japanese would be much more useful for work and business (this was before the full decimating effects of the Plaza Accord on the Japanese economy became apparent), and that French was only for dreamers and slackers, or if you wanted a stultifying dead-end job at the UN.

As usual, fathers always get their way. But I thought I was getting him back by being as disinterested in my Japanese lessons as I possibly could, getting into all sorts of trouble in class, and skipping classes altogether. At that time, the MOE Language Centre (foreign language classes were held outside of school) was located in an old but rather rustic, beautifully wooded and small cosy campus at Winstedt Road, near Newton Circus. But I was cutting so many Japanese classes, I could probably be found more often hanging out just down the road at the Far East Plaza McDonald’s, Scotts Road instead.


But I do have good memories of the Winstedt Road campus. Once, when again baiting the Japanese teacher with my innocent questions on the Sook Ching Massacre and the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, I must had pushed him too far. He went apoplectic and chased me out of the classroom, and made me stand on a chair along the corridor, facing the wooded grounds of the campus. I remember standing high up on the chair and looking at the trees and greenery, feeling a refreshing little breeze and thinking: This ain’t too bad, the view’s pretty good from up here; and started playing Othello positions in my head.
Another enduring memory and image from the growing years.

Alas, I now regret not taking my Japanese language lessons more seriously; at the end of the four years, I never became more than a journeyman in the language, hampered by silly youthful rebelliousness, and perhaps even more so, by a misguided latent and burgeoning chinese chauvinism. But at least I was able to watch my favourite Macross Saga cartoon anime in the un-dubbed version.

I didn’t totally give up French either. I took lessons off and on at the Alliance all the way till Junior College (senior high), and took some French elective classes in university as well. While I still struggle mightily when trying to read Gargantua and Pantagruel in the original French, I know I would not have enjoyed the annual French Film Festivals as much as I did without my feeble French studies (at that time, the biggest foreign film fest in town was the annual French Film Festival organized by Alliance Française).

Ah, now there’s some good colourful celluloid memories…
Blue, White, Red
Bleu, Blanc, Rouge
liberté, egalité, fraternité


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