13 July 2006

Bobby Valentine's Japanese Improving Fast

Daily Yomiuri reporter Yoko Mizui recently profiled Chiba Lotte Marines manager Bobby Valentine's thrilling success in mastering Japanese in his mid-fifties.
"The most exciting thing that ever happened to me was not winning the Asian Championship and the Japan Championship last year. Nor was it winning the Major League. It was not even winning koryusen [interleague competition] this year," said Chiba Lotte Marines baseball team manager Bobby Valentine. "The most exciting thing was that at the age of 50 plus, I could discover Step Up Nihongo and learn the language."

Valentine talked about how he learned the Japanese language and utilizes it in managing his team at a seminar to introduce a new e-learning system, "eSUN," in Tokyo on June 26....

In 2004, Valentine returned to Japan once again as the manager of the Marines after managing the New York Mets for seven years. He started to study Japanese seriously with the book and CD. "It made me successful--not only in my personal life, where I have derived great satisfaction from learning to communicate in another language, but also in my workplace, where I have been able to gain the respect of the players and the coaches who work for me," he said.

Although he has hired an interpreter "to ensure that my communication with the players and coaches is always accurate," he finds it important that he has been able to understand what the players and coaches are saying. "I believe that communication is about words, feelings and actions. What I found with Step Up Nihongo is that it teaches me more than just words," he said.

"I've become able to see and understand so much with my players. Very often, they think they don't need an interpreter when they come and talk to me in my office. When I'm talking with my players, my coaches, my friends and my fans, I feel very comfortable speaking Japanese."

Valentine also uses an interpreter when he speaks to the press. "Because I think it is very important to use the correct words as they are writing down what I say and sending it out to the fans," he said.
Like any dedicated athlete, he spends a lot of time on drills.
SUN employs a lot of pattern drills, as Yamauchi believes mastering the patterns is the best way to rapidly learn Japanese. Valentine studies Japanese during his workout. "I use an exercise bike for about 35 to 45 minutes every day and that is my time for study," he said.
via Colby Cosh

My father learned Japanese well enough to preach, teach, and counsel in it (starting about age 25), but found it much harder to learn Spanish in his late 60s.

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