Student continues to carry on her Japanese culture

Hanging on to her dreams

By Yunmi Kim

Hanging on to her dreams

Yunmi Kim, reporter

Alyssa Bales, a freshman at McKinley High School, speaks English and Japanese.

Bales was born in Kanagawa, Japan with a Japanese mother and an American father. Her name has a Japanese origin. Her mother originally wanted to name her Alice because she liked the  story  “Alice in Wonderland” and wanted the name to be girlish. However, she decided to change it, so that Bales would have a name that would be both Japanese and American. So the name became “Alyssa” or “Arisa.” The “A” stood for Asia, the “Ri” stood for Asian Pear and the “Sa” stood for Sand.

Bales’s first language was actually English, not Japanese.

Bales said, “In the past, I never spoke Japanese with my mother or older brother.”

She never had any interest in Japan or in learning the Japanese language. Bales could not understand Japanese at that time, so her mother spoke to her in English most of the time.  But when she became nine years old, Bales suddenly changed her thoughts after watching the Japanese TV show, “Hey Say Jump!”

Bales said, “I started to gain interest in Japan.”

It made her want to learn Japanese as well. She also did it for her Japanese relatives living in Japan in order to be closer to them, especially to her grandmother.

Bales said, “I didn’t know how to speak Japanese, so I only spoke to my aunt, who knew English.”

The language barrier made her think that her grandmother did not like her. From that point on, she spoke to her mother in Japanese instead of English at home in order to improve her Japanese speaking skills.

Bales admitted that “it was a little hard at first,” but she was slowly able to speak Japanese as time went by. Now that she can understand Japanese, Bales said that she is able to understand what her mother is saying in Japanese, so she “can be part of the conversation,” as well as, eaves drop on her mother. She also said she is closer to her Japanese relatives than before. Now as a freshman at McKinley High School, Bales notices that some people who have the same ethnicity as her are not always bilingual.

She said, “I feel sorry for them” because it takes a really long time to master another language, especially as a teenager. Bales said that for her, even though she still has to improve her Japanese, “it won’t take that much time” since she is already familiar with the language for the most part.

As for her future, Bales hopes to improve her Japanese now so that she can live and work in Japan. She explains that when she works in Japan, her occupation would be an English teacher there. Bales got this idea by her mother’s friend’s suggestion on what she should become when she grows up. She still tries to use Japanese as much as possible and is in Japanese class at McKinley High School to reach her goal. She said she hopes to speak Japanese much more fluently than now when she graduates as a senior.