Oleh Ade Tuti Turistiati
Dosen di Institut STIAMI, Jakarta
I had a great opportunity to live in Japan for 3 years, from 2011 to 2014. To be able to communicate and make friends with Japanese people, Japanese language ability is indispensable. Japanese people prefer to use Nihongo or Japanese language even though some of them understand English. That's why I took Japanese language courses in some places taught by volunteers for free. Most of the volunteers were elderly people and they previously worked in the public sectors or private companies.
Time went by, my Japanese language ability improved. I became more confident to speak in Japanese language in various chances and situations. While my Japanese language had improved, I felt my English speaking ability got worse. To maintain my English speaking ability I searched for a kind of English club where I could practice or use my English. Fortunately I found an announcement on a bulletin board in the library near shopping center. It was an English saloon held every Wednesday morning and they welcomed new members at any time. Undoubtedly, I did a trial to join the saloon. At the first meeting I was surprised because the English saloon members were elderly people. As a matter of fact I was the youngest member among them because they were all retirees. The eldest member was nearly 80 years old but his English ability was very good. I noticed that they were all very enthusiastic to learn English. Most of them even brought electronic dictionaries with them and used them whenever they didn’t know words in English. The club’s rules are that every member is a student as well as a teacher. We have to encourage each other to be confident to speak up in English. All members have to keep the saloon a joyful environment and respect each other. Having had a nice experience from the first meeting, then I formally joined the saloon. I enjoyed learning English and sharing things with them. They sometimes made a joke in Japanese language and tried to translate it in English so I also fully understood the whole story and that made me laugh.
I was curious to know why at their age they still wanted and needed to learn English. Some of them said that they would like to maintain their English ability. They used to use English when they worked. All of them believed that by learning a second or foreign language, it could help combat age-related memory loss. In addition, learning a language could expose them to the culture from which it is derived, fostering a better understanding of and appreciation for people from other countries. I totally agreed with them. Other than that I was inspired by one of the members’ opinion. She said:
"Ade san, I do not even consider my age to learn anything especially English, because learning is the essence of life. If you want longevity, keep learning and sharing. I believe everyone has the need to learn and share things with others.”
As we might have known that Japan has the oldest life expectancy in the world. That means people in Japan live a really long time. Men live to 79 years of age. Women live a little over 86 years of age. I guess the increase of elderly people in Japan is not only because of the healthy food they consume and a lot of walking (exercises) but also use their brain to learn.***