When I studied abroad in Tokyo, Japan 2 years ago I was the lone wolf of the group. Everything I did was done solo or with as little company as possible. It’s not that I didn’t like the group, but I just had the feeling that I could be doing more without having that added on weight. But knowing me and my good soul, I couldn’t bear to see them waste six months of tuition money in Japan. Staying in the dorm became a kind of poison, one that I had the cure to thankfully.
I proposed a kind of scavenger hunt to the group in which they would explore Tokyo as much as possible with the time available on the program. The prize at the time were the 1 and 10 yen coins that nobody used. I mean seriously I think everybody had their own personal jar of 1 and 10 yens. Over the course of 1- month, the person with the most victories would have usually accumulated 1000 yen. That’s enough to buy you a decent meal in a Japanese Ramen restaurant if you ever get the chance.
How The Language Learning Game Worked
We would collectively decide on a day that was completely free for everyone, regardless of our program schedule. Then as simple as it sounds we all hopped on the train and diverged throughout different parts of the city, without telling each other where we were going either. We then agreed to meet at the Shibuya Crossing at the Hachiko Statue where we would share our individual experiences. Whoever had the most interesting/crazy story won the stockpile of yen we had wagered.
The Rules Of The Language Learning Game
There are few rules to this game but they hold an enormous amount of weight and are relevant to the purpose of the scavenger hunt.
- The truth must be told at all times – You cannot exaggerate your adventures, and you must tell it exactly how it happened.
- You can use any method of transportation to get to where you need to go. If you however choose to walk, the experiences during your stroll will count towards your overall score.
- You can choose to explore the same place as one of your peers, but you each must have one experience that the other wouldn’t be aware of otherwise. For example when I went to the coast of Enoshima with my friend Donovan, I made sure to separate myself from him for a part of the journey to have my own adventure.
Hunting For Language In The Game
If you’re ever in your host country you can easily try this either individually or with a group. Language learning is a blend of spontaneity and planning. What better way to complement its complex nature by completing a scavenger hunt? Plan your adventure and then enjoy all of the random experiences you’ll have along the way.
Everybody in my program would always complain about how they were so scared to get lost or how they didn’t know how to use the language. Well, the fact of the matter is that you’re always lost in a new place and once more you’ll certainly learn how to use the language if you’re lost.
Here are some exciting places you can try exploring along with some scavenger hunt “items’ to acquire.
Venture out into the countryside if you live in the city: There are less things to do in the countryside, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have awesome experiences. Use your communication skills to carry you throughout the day, interact with people and learn more about the culture.
Venture out into the city if you live in the countryside: The city is the place to do everything, literally the first thing that pops into your head is what you should do. This where you allow spontaneity to take charge. If you stop to think too long you’ll miss the full experience.
Try bar hopping in a bustling area: Meet at least 5 different people. Bonus credits if you have them tell stories about their lives. Bars usually have a very talkative atmosphere due to well..you know, alcohol. Don’t get too out of hand though, you still need to remember what happened to win the game.
Attend a music concert: Meet the concert performer (trust me it’s easier than it seems. You just need to be louder than everyone else, know all their songs, and make eye contact.)
Go to a cultural festival: Learn the names of new food, cultural traditions and people. It’s a “three birds one stone kind of scenario”. You’ll also have a blast!
Save Money – More Exposure!
Most people can’t just take a full on trip through their host country at will. For one public transportation can quickly rack up some enormous fees. Secondly, depending on your lifestyle and personal schedule this can be close to impossible – CLOSE to impossible.
If you find yourself short on fees while living abroad but still want to take up this challenge there are a few things you can attempt. Have no fear, I did these exact things when I was short on fees travelling through Tokyo.
Split Travel Fees
This is more of an alternating kind of travel schedule than an “I’ll pay for you” kind of thing. Have your friend pay for your trip one day and then when they want to explore you pay for theirs. Just make sure the loan period is long enough so that you can get back on your feet financially. Otherwise, just see if your friend circle is willing to divide the cost of your journey entirely. I remember this one time we all wanted to go to this district to visit a sake brewery, but I didn’t have enough money at the time. What ended up happening was the 10+ members of my study abroad group all contributed 200 yen, and I was able to go at the end of the day.
Walk It Out
Provided that you are a perfectly healthy individual with two functioning legs you can just walk yourself anywhere you please. The downsides to walking are few and far but there’s nothing some food and water won’t solve every 10 miles. Not to mention you’ll be sure to come across some interesting places and people compared to if you were to zoom across the country in a metal box. First, pack a bag with some essentials such as bottled water, light snacks, a phone charger and most important of all your pocket dictionary. After you’re done with those preparations it’s as simple as finding the willpower to leave your residence. It’ll feel weird at first, but after the first couple of miles when you’re too far along to turn back – at that point you might as well just go further. .
Learn To Compromise
Chances are the places you’ll encounter along your journey may cost money for entertainment purposes. So, you’ll need some form of compromise – consider having ‘free’ experiences such as public parks, gardens, or plain old sightseeing. The exchange here is that you pay for transportation while everything else is free.
Well, the good news is that free experiences are often the ones that help you learn the best. Since there are fewer distractions that paid experiences would provide, you’ll find yourself relying on your own ability to provide entertainment. This entertainment will usually express itself in the form of verbal communication and social interactions. You’ll be speaking to natives, finding hot spots amongst the locals and learning things you normally wouldn’t come across on a daily basis.
Make It Memorable
The end goal of any scavenger hunt is to find valuable goods. That’s the whole reason why you would even participate in one in the first place. Language learning should also be a MEMORABLE experience. Imagine the day you’re fluent and you look back on all the crazy, unforgettable things you encountered. You’ll have stories to tell your grandkids/pets for generations to come. Having said that we advise that you get the most value out of your experiences, don’t search for experiences you can have in your native country. In order to really win these scavenger hunts, it’s less about the number of places you visit, but rather the quality of the journey and their experiences.
Enjoy this awesome collage I put together of my group and I “hunting”. We/ I came across some unforgettable moments, I teared up a quite a bit looking at these and remembering the times we shared.