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Essay

Curiosity

By Samantha Loong

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"Curiosity killed the cat." It's a proverb that warns people against experimenting, investigating or questioning anything unless there's a good reason. I don't like this proverb, as (1) I like cats, and (2) curiosity makes life interesting.

Most parents will remember the age when their children started asking (or in most cases, over-asking) the question "Why?" "Why is the sky blue?" "Why is poo brown?" Although this incessant questioning will test the patience of many, it's something that should be nurtured, not discouraged.

I sometimes wonder how my students' parents and teachers dealt with their curiosity when they were growing up. Did they encourage them to ask questions? To experiment? Take risks? I currently teach around 60 adult students at their offices. They're all overworked individuals, so I know that there's not a lot of time in their lives to squeeze in English learning on top of everything else. However, it only takes me a few hours with a new student to know if they will improve naturally and in a way that won't feel like extra work to them.

These students are the ones that show curiosity. They are the ones who, at any level, take something — a new word, phrase or expression — and just try it out. They see patterns and follow them. And then they try breaking them. As they get comfortable making and breaking patterns, they start to ask "Can I say ...?" As they get more advanced, they ask "What's the difference between X and Y?" or "Is that the same as Z?" There's no real reason for them to follow patterns, break patterns or ask questions. But when they do, their brain is making connections and associations with related vocabulary.

When they have time to review outside of class, it's these students who grasp information the fastest and retain it the longest. It's similar to physical exercise. When you work out, your muscles get strained and sore. But then they repair and get stronger. It's a shame many of my students are so dedicated to the gym for their body, but neglect to work out their language too. Like muscles, it's a case of "use it, or lose it."

I'm not sure what that cat was doing when curiosity killed it. But it turns out that the original expression was "Care killed the cat." "Care" was then defined as "worry." So it looks like worrying about what's going to happen is the real problem. If anything, curiosity is good for our mental health. Being curious about a language, about people, about art, movies, food ... All these things help us make connections — not only in our brains, but also with the people and world around us.

好奇心

英語にはCuriosity killed the cat.ということわざがあるが、猫好きの筆者はこの言葉が嫌いだ。好奇心を持つと人生は面白くなるし、英語学習でも、好奇心を示す生徒ほど上達しやすいそうだ。

The Japan Times ST: March 10, 2017

The Japan Times ST 読者アンケート

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2017年3月31日号    試読・購読   デジタル版
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