Passion, practice the keys to success

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Passion, practice the keys to success

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Mari Yonehara was a renowned literary figure in Japan. Before passing away at the age of 56, she made a name for herself as an interpreter and came to be regarded as the best Russian interpreter in Japan. In January 2006, a few months before her death, she contributed a piece to the Shukan Bunshun, a weekly magazine.

When she was working as an interpreter, she was often asked, “What level of fluency is required to interpret as well as you do?” She always responded, “You should be able to enjoy reading novels in the second language.” She gave a wise answer to the foolish question. Being able to fluently read and enjoy a foreign-language novel requires more than mere linguistic skills. It demands a profound understanding of the culture, history, customs, geography and current affairs of the country in question. Being able to enjoy novels from another country means being able to act and think like a person from that country, at least partially. One or two years is not enough to reach such a level.

One of my favorite television programs is “Everyday Masters,” a series of documentaries about ordinary people who have mastered a certain field or profession. Those who have devoted their entire lives to a certain job are the stars of the show. I have the greatest respect for their passion and effort, and their challenges, struggles and triumphs are truly inspiring.

Prominent neuroscientist Daniel Levitin, a professor at McGill University in Canada, claims that at least 10,000 hours are needed to reach a level of expertise at another language. This means that any student who invests three hours a day, everyday, would need 10 years. According to his theory, I should have become an expert writer by now. However, I still find it difficult. The quality of immersion, devotion and concentration in those 10,000 hours is the key; and it is this quality, not just quantity, of invested hours that has made Kim Yu-na arguably the most beautiful skater in the world. The same logic can be applied to the contestants on “I am a Singer.”

Meanwhile, Jo Yeong-nam is set to be rewarded for his mastery of opera by performing at the Opera House of the Seoul Arts Center. What is significant about this is that it is his first performance since entering the school of music 50 years ago. It suggests that, while the world is getting harder and more competitive by the day, those who constantly strive to succeed will achieve their goal eventually, if they persevere.

The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Bae Myung-bok
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