||Professor, Center for Language Education
Master of Arts, University of Hawaii at Manoa
|Research Field :
||Japanese Language Education
Being in charge of Career Japanese course- one of the most popular classes many students go through “click war” during course registration, Professor UMEDA is no longer a new name to Japanese language learners in APU. Agreeing to an interview that was more like a heart-to-heart conversation with Student Press Assistant (SPA), Professor UMEDA shared with us her thoughts of learning and teaching Japanese, APU students, and advices.
While studying abroad, Professor UMEDA was thinking of how to utilize her strength- Japanese proficiency in a career that would grant her opportunities to work abroad. With that in mind, she majored in Japanese teaching as a second language, and has been following this path. Recalling the unforgettable memories on those first days in the US, Professor UMEDA disclosed that in her first year, she totally did not understand English at all, which was the personal experience she always recalls to reassure frantic international students when first getting used to Japanese language. Another memory was when Professor UMEDA attended a Communication class. There were 16 students, but she was the only Japanese. After receiving a “warning” for the class, she worked hard for the final report, get it checked by native speakers, and passed the class, being happily hugged by her instructor.
Later, after being invited to work in APU and considering the fact her family is currently living in Kumamoto, Professor UMEDA decided to join our community. When asked about APU, she considered the multicultural environment in APU invaluable such as different backgrounds, learning styles, mindsets, and hence, certain gaps among students. Requested to make a quick evaluation between learning Japanese in APU and in language schools in Japan, Professor UMEDA admitted that it may be tough to focus on Japanese learning in APU, considering the multilingual environment. However, despite the lack of focus, a good command of Japanese, English, and their mother tongue is a secret weapon to APU students. Consequently, Professor UMEDA strongly hoped students would thoroughly learn the basics of Japanese during their time at APU, and continue to do more self-study even after graduation. Moreover, Professor UMEDA also thought the experiences of cooperating and living with different cultures APU students build up here would benefit their future career, which enables APU graduates to contribute greatly to the global community.
Moving on to the challenges she perceive foreign students may face when pursuing Japanese language learning, Professor UMEDA said such challenges vary among nationalities of students. For example, Kanji may be easy for Chinese students, like grammar to Korean students, but for students from countries whose languages are totally different from Japanese such as Thailand or Indonesia, it is a bit tricky. Regarding the pronunciation, she also disclosed this mostly depends on individuals, even students the same country may have a hard time to get their pronunciation right, considering the fact such a skill is not mastered by memorizing only.
Asked for advices to tackle these challenges, Professor UMEDA encouraged students to continue Japanese learning even after they have finished compulsory intermediate Japanese course. “Try to take some Japanese language classes such as “Japanese project” classes if you don't want to go on to pre-advanced level. Because there is a limit in classroom, make friends, and get involved proactively in different activities to use the language. Making daily efforts such as watching television or reading newspapers would improve your skills, so just strive hard like the tortoise in Aesop’s fable “The Tortoise and the Hare”. Overtime there certainly will be differences between students who stop learning midway and those who continue little by little every day.”- Professor UMEDA advised. Her advice continued to those who are thinking of their future paths. “There is no fixed path after graduation, so you don’t have to choose clearly between graduate school and working. Working a little to experience the working environment, then getting back to school is also an option. Attending career education, and explore as many different options for yourself as possible.”- Professor UMEDA concluded her advices with her sincere smile.