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Two Decades of Introductory Japanese

Posted on Friday, November 22, 2013

Earlier this month the HWS Japanese Language and Culture Program, as it has each fall for the past 19 years, offered open sample classes to introduce prospective Japanese-studies scholars to the distinctive and immersive instruction style of the program.

"Our drill classes are unique," says James-Henry Holland, associate professor of Asian languages and cultures. "You see immediately in the sample drill class that if you take Japanese, you'll speak a lot of Japanese."

Both Holland and Tanaka Lecturer in Asian Languages and Cultures Kyoko Ishida-Klaus, with whom Holland co-teaches the introductory Japanese courses, studied under Professor Eleanor Jorden, an American linguist renowned for her contributions to Japanese language pedagogy.

This shared background, Holland says, is part of the reason he and Ishida-Klaus "work so well together as a team."

Jorden literally wrote the book on Japanese language instruction, and her work provides the model for the course structure in HWS Japanese courses.

During the "drill" classes, which meet three times a week, Ishida-Klaus does not speak English; instead, she facilitates conversations in Japanese, with, between and among students.

The other two days of the week, Holland teaches the other segment of the language course in English, to explain grammar and clarify underlying linguistic theory of what students practice in the drill classes.

"Students are not only speaking a lot of Japanese and applying it in real life, but practicing body language, bowing, pronunciation, timing. It's a very performance based class," Holland says.

This kind of immersion-both in language and culture-is what students are introduced to in the sample classes and, Holland says, what engages students with the program.

"Our program is very successful," he says. "Many of our students who take four years of Japanese go on to grad school in Japanese studies and/or teach English in Japan and/or work for Japanese companies in U.S."

For more information about Japanese at the HWS, visit the program's homepage for course, curriculum and enrollment information. For further information about the Japanese Program, please contact Professor Holland.

 


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