Guest blogger Hannah Halman, who recently graduated from the University of Bath with a BA in Spanish and Politics, explains how learning Japanese with the Skills Centre helped prepare her for a teaching position in Tokyo through the JET Programme.
As a languages student, I greatly enjoy the feeling that communicating with another person in a foreign language can bring. I experienced first-hand during my year abroad in South America and Spain how languages can bring together many different people and communities.
Although my time in Spain was cut short due to the initial outbreak of coronavirus, I enjoyed my time teaching English so much that I knew I wanted to do it again. This, combined with how much I enjoyed my time immersed in different South American societies, made me keen to experience another new culture and return to teaching.
This led me to the JET Programme, which focuses on cultural exchange through the medium of language education. I’ve always wanted to visit Japan (I’m sure that I’m not the only one who has it on my bucket list) and my language background fed into my eagerness to live in Japan to learn the language too.
After some initial research about the programme last summer, I decided that my goal after graduating was to successfully join JET and become an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher).
However, there was one clear obstacle between me and my goal. The only Japanese that I knew was limited to ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’ and ‘thank you’. If I wanted to really engage in a cultural exchange, then I needed to be able to communicate in Japanese.
I had previously known that Bath offered Japanese language courses through the Foreign Languages Centre, however I had never really considered signing up to a class until this year. I signed up as soon as registration opened online (which I would recommend as the course is very popular!) and quickly found myself diving in head-first into Suzui-sensei’s online Complete Beginners Japanese class.
The classes themselves have been excellent and were well-paced, and each week I learned more and more about the Japanese language. By the end of the year, I felt a real sense of pride at being able to read hiragana and katakana, the two basic Japanese alphabets, as well as having short conversations and writing short texts in Japanese.
Insight into Japanese culture
Although I’m still a beginner, Suzui-sensei’s lessons have taught me far more than I thought would be possible in 20 weeks and have hugely facilitated my future Japanese studies.
In addition to now understanding basic Japanese, Suzui-sensei’s lessons have also provided me with an excellent insight to Japanese culture, which I wouldn’t have known about if I hadn’t joined her course.
Learning about different holidays and local customs, Japanese etiquette and the vast differences between each region in Japan has greatly fleshed out my learning experiences and made me feel far more prepared to adapt to life abroad.
After recently receiving confirmation of my JET placement to teach English in Tokyo, I’m so glad that I used the opportunity provided by the university to expand my cultural and language knowledge. I now feel much more confident in participating in an educational exchange.
Through the Beginners Japanese course, I’ve gained invaluable skills that I hope to use not just when I’m living in Japan, but in other careers in the future, too.
After my time on the JET Programme, I hope to join the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office or another similar, diplomacy-based role. I feel that I’m now better matched to these types of roles, as a result of my growing languages skillset, and will continue developing such skills in the future to expand my career possibilities.
We wish Hannah all the best with her placement and future plans! If you're interested in learning Japanese, or another foreign language, why not find out more about our classes?
(Feature image by Sofia Terzoni on Pixabay).