Japanese Language School Directory

Discovering connections to master the language

Michiru Mekata
Special to the japan times

Radek Tyszkiewicz, counselor for press affairs in the political and economic section of the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Tokyo, keeps a busy schedule, specializing in the affairs of Poland, Japan, and other parts of Europe and Asia. The Japan Times recently had the opportunity to hear how Tyszkiewicz came to know, love and work in Japan, together with his approach in mastering the language.

Radek TyszkiewiczRadek Tyszkiewicz

Excerpts of the exclusive interview follow:

How did you become interested in Japan?

My personal interest started in high school, especially in Japanese literature. Though I didn't speak any Japanese at that time, I read various translations of books written by such writers as Kenzaburo Oe, Junichiro Tanizaki and Kobo Abe.

Another reason was because of Japan's history, especially the Meiji Period after the country opened up. Since then, Japan has became one of the global powers in a very short time. That reality was a great inspiration for all other countries that wanted to develop as fast as Japan. Furthermore, the leaders of the Meiji era like Saigo Takamori and other Satsuma and Choshu clan heroes were very appealing.

During my student days, Poland was transforming from a socialist into a capitalist system. People started coming into my country from various other nations, and Poland's relationship warmed with Japan. This was when I first met a Japanese person. The encounter opened my eyes to the totally different culture, language and personality of the Japanese people.

Going through such an experience, a colleague of mine suggested that I should study Japanese so that I could learn more about Japan. But there were only three universities in those days that provided Japanese courses. I chose to go to the University of Warsaw. It was extremely difficult, and I worked hard to study the Japanese language thoroughly for five years. Those years provided me with a very good theoretical background.

Then I became interested in actually visiting Japan to see the country with my own eyes. Hence, I entered the Foreign Ministry of Poland and became responsible for Japanese affairs. I started working in Japan from 2006. I will complete my work in Tokyo and return to Poland this April.

How did you improve your Japanese during your stay in the country?

One excellent opportunity wasthe Japan Return Program. It is very popular among diplomats, even among those who do not speak Japanese but are willing to learn the language. The program is very attractive for those working busily at the embassy but are still trying to spare their time and make efforts to start learning or improving their language skills. I attended the course for almost one year.

It also is a very valuable initiative for young people who come from around the world. In the program, you have a professional Japanese teacher and practice your Japanese in small groups. It also offers you a very rare opportunity in Japan to interact with many people outside Japan. The program's emphasis on the daily lives of the Japanese people is also good because you cannot learn such things back in your own country. After attending the course, you have the feeling of improvement in your daily life, and you feel at ease when engaging with other Japanese people. The course is also good when preparing for language tests, including the Japanese Language Proficiency Test.

Other than the language, what have you learned about Japan from living in the country?

I learned so many new things, such as the living conditions of the Japanese people, their behavior and their communication methods. I have observed how they express their emotions on different occasions, such as weddings, funerals and at "matsuri" (festivals). But I still have the feeling that I have merely touched the surface.

Champs: Saudi Arabian diplomat Essam Bukhary (center) won the Foreign Minister Prize, Radek Tyszkiewicz (right) of the Polish Embassy won the education minister prize and Hyu Jun of the Chinese Embassy received the Cultural Affairs Agency Prize at the 14th annual Japanese Speech Contest for Foreign Embassy Officials held in Tokyo on Oct. 29, 2011. YOSHIAKI MIURAChamps: Saudi Arabian diplomat Essam Bukhary (center) won the Foreign Minister Prize, Radek Tyszkiewicz (right) of the Polish Embassy won the education minister prize and Hyu Jun of the Chinese Embassy received the Cultural Affairs Agency Prize at the 14th annual Japanese Speech Contest for Foreign Embassy Officials held in Tokyo on Oct. 29, 2011. YOSHIAKI MIURA

Nevertheless, such contacts have made my communication with the Japanese people much easier. You learn more about their behavior and feel as though you are almost learning an invisible language. I think this experience will help me in the future to work better not only with the Japanese people, but also with other Asian people.

Do you have any advice to young people who are thinking about learning more about Japan?

First, I want them to meet Japan, open themselves to the country and try to experience as much as they can. I would advise them to learn the Japanese language, though it is difficult. Even the basic phrases help a lot to open the Japanese people's hearts. People appreciate it if you try speaking the language.

Second, I would advise the young people to actively engage themselves in different activities, including festivals, historical, traditional and cultural events, and so on. Japan has established the top pillars in science, culture; it is a successful country in terms of high-tech, culture, theater, martial arts, Jpop, manga and so on. Consequently, the Japanese language is becoming more and more popular in Poland. Also, with the establishment of 275 Japanese companies to date, the Japanese society in Poland is growing, too.

Finally, as you will be leaving next month, what will you remember most about your experience in Japan?

I traveled quite a lot around Japan and discovered that the Japanese language is very diverse. There are many dialects from the north to the south.

I also found that Japan is a very beautiful country, with each city having its original, distinctive character. Landscapes are different and the character of each city is unique.

Those are the fond memories of Japan that I will remember until the end of my life. My heart will be with Japan as my second home, and I hope to become the bridge between Poland and Japan in the future.

From March 12, a special gift from each language school displayed below will be offered at www.japantimes.co.jp/info/japanese-language-school-directory.