Lost for words
Last year, Daiya had a chance to introduce himself to Ashton Eaton, the American superstar decathlete who won gold medals at two Olympics and holds world records in his sport. Eaton was soon asking Daiya about Japan. "He's a great guy,” the swimmer says. “He seems to like Japan and has visited my country for pleasure. Even though I couldn't speak very well, just understanding a little of what he said was refreshing and made me want to study more and speak better English."
The more Daiya attempts to communicate with people around the world, the more he realizes how limited his English skills are. Like anyone attempting to speak a foreign language, he can recall a number of frustrating encounters.
"I often feel that my English isn't good enough, especially when I’m at an airport in another country,” he says. “A swimmer often has to take long flights to competitions, and the way I spend my time in the cabin is important for my performance. At check-in, I ask for seats with more legroom or aisle seats so I can be comfortable and move around.” When changing planes at airports outside Japan, however, he sometimes has problems because he can't always find the right English words when asked for his seat preference. At such times he wishes he could express himself better.
“I think one big thing many people worry about when they travel to another country is being unable to communicate,” he says. “I don't worry about it too much, but some athletes may be focused on preparations for their event and get stressed out by language issues. I hope that airports around the world will soon be places where everyone is able to communicate without any problems.”