Dr. Jose Protacio Mercado Rizal y Alonzo Realonda (June 19, 1861 , December 30, 1896), variously called the "Pride of the Malay Race," "The Great Malayan," "The First Filipino," "The Messiah of the Revolution," "The Universal Hero," "The Messiah of the Redemption," was an polyglot and is the national hero of the Philippines. To learn a new language, Rizal memorized five root words every night before going to bed. At the end of the year, he learned 1,825 new words. He never forgets these foreign words because of his retentive memory.
Rizal made a good use of his knowledge of many languages in his travels in Europe and America, in communicating with foreign scholars and scientists, and in his writings. Many times during his travels abroad, he acted as interpreter for his fellow travelers who belonged to various nationalities-Americans, British, French, German, Italians, Spaniards, Japanese and others.
During his exile in Dapitan, Rizal increased his knowledge of languages. He studied three more languages- Malay, Bisayan and Subanun. On April 5, 1896, he wrote to his Austrian friend, Professor Blumentritt: "I know Bisayan already, and I speak it quite well. It is necessary, however, to know other dialects."
By the end of his exile in Dapitan on July 31, 1896, Rizal had become one of the world's great linguists. He knew 22 languages, namely, Tagalog, Ilokano, Spanish, Portuguese, Latin, Greek, Sanskrit, English, French, German, Arabic, Hebrew, Catalan, Dutch, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Swedish, Russian, Malay, Bisayan, and Subanun.
Rizal and the Japanese Language
People studying Japanese could benefit from Jose Rizal’s method in learning a new language. According to historians, Rizal memorized five new root words every night. For those who do not know Rizal, he is the National Hero of the Philippines and he was a polymath and a polyglot. Rizal knew 22 languages including the Japanese Language. He stayed in Japan for about 6 weeks from February 28 to April 13, 1888.
Just how good was Rizal in speaking Japanese? Was his six weeks of stay in Japan enough for him to acquire proficiency in Japanese?
Watashi wa Rizal desu
It is clear that Rizal couldn’t speak Japanese well when he first came to Japan. This is evident from the fact that he needed an interpreter to introduce himself to Osei-san (Ms. Seiko Usui), a Japanese lady who eventually became his girlfriend. "They first met one pleasant afternoon when Rizal beheld a charming girl walk past the Legation gate. With a Japanese gardener as his interpreter, our champion introduced himself to the amused lady. Rizal spoke poor Nippongo, but Seiko knew English, and thus they shared a tongue. Since then, they got together almost daily, revealing the city's sights." Stealth-Gaijin
Like some Filipinos, Rizal looked like a Japanese. His Japanese appearance made it difficult for natives to detect that he was a gaikokujin or foreigner. This and the fact that he couldn’t speak Japanese bothered Rizal as can be seen from his letter to his friend Blumentritt: "Here you have your friend Rizal, wonder of the Japanese, since he has a Japanese appearance, and yet does not understand Japanese. "When I go out in the streets shopping and want to buy something, people stare at me and ill-bred boys laugh at me because I speak so strange a language. There are very few people in Tokyo who speak English, but in Yokohama many speak it. Some think I am a Europeanized Japanese who does not want to be taken as such. That often happens with the half-bred Japanese in the Philippines." Joutatsu
Rizal, a scholar and a true patriot, wanted to study the condition of the various Japanese classes. He might have realized that in order for him to have a deeper understanding of the Japanese society, he had to learn their language. With his natural flair for languages and through the help of his girlfriend Osei-san, he...
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