Kohei Kimura
Gojo Nishi Middle School

Do you like English? Me? I like English very much. In my family, my mother and brother also like English. However, my father feels differently.

When we are watching my favorite program on TV, my father always says things like, gThat foreigner speaks Japanese well. He studies Japanese harder than we do.h My father talks about the Japanese language very often as if he is opposed to those of us who are trying to understand English.

Even so, my father doesnft hate English. When some foreign friends come to our house for dinner, he tries to be friendly and talk to them in simple English. But he often tells me, gYou are Japanese and you need to study your own language as well as English.h

The other day I had an experience that helped me to understand the words my father said.

One morning when my father had a day off, I quarreled with my older brother and then was scolded by my mother. I was upset and left for school without saying a word.

When I came home, my father said to me with a serious look on his face, gYou should say eittekimasuf when you leave home. Do you know why we say that?h he asked. I answered, gTo tell someone that we are leaving the house.h gYes.h, he said, g eIttekimasuf has two meanings. One is to go. And the other is to come home. We donft know what will happen to us while we are gone. We say eittekimasuf to tell someone who is waiting for us, eIfll go and come back safely so please donft worry about me.f This puts their minds at ease.h

It is no wonder for me that I can speak Japanese, and I am never conscious about the language I use. Thatfs why I have used the phrase gittekimasuh without thinking about its meaning. Sometimes I have left home without saying it. Ifve never thought that such a short phrase could mean so much.

I tried to look up the word gittekimasuh to see if English had a similar word. However, there was no word that had both meanings of going and coming back. I think Japanese is the only language that has such a word. There are only six characters and yet gittekimasuh has such a deep meaning.

Japan has a long history and traditional culture. In Nara, where I live, there is a temple called Horyuji which is the worldfs oldest surviving wooden structure. It has been standing in its original state for 1400 years. Thatfs because the people before us have taken care of it throughout history.

The Japanese language is part of that culture, too. We are able to know such beautiful words because our ancestors valued them. Now I believe we should try to understand the meaning of our words and properly use them every day to teach the next generation.

I think there are many words that I do not yet use or know their meanings, but the word that my father taught me, gittekimasuh, has inspired me to learn more about my own Japanese Language.

When I left my house this morning, I remembered to say gittekimasu.h

(4-20 Speech in 61st Contest, 2009)

(C)JNSA FUND/the Yomiuri Shimbun

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