Introducing our Japanese teacher Hisami

This year UvA Talen has added a second Asian language to its range of courses. Besides Chinese, you can now also learn Japanese at the academic language centre. We asked Hisami, teacher of Japanese at UvA Talen, about Japan, about teaching, and about the courses she gives at UvA Talen.

When did you start teaching?
‘Before I started teaching Japanese, I taught English to Japanese children. I taught for a private company, and my youngest student was two. He couldn’t even speak Japanese yet. We played a lot of games and sang songs. My job was to make the children happy. If they were happy they wanted to come back. And if they came back and continued, they learned something. It’s not like they want to learn. Children don’t know that kind of motivation.’

Is teaching adults very different than teaching children?
‘Making students happy is still the base of my approach. I create a place for them to learn something, and make it possible for them to do something at home. I don’t force my students; they will do what they can do. That’s enough. Children can learn something very quickly but with adults it takes time. The most important thing is to continue and to stay interested. Adults cannot learn another language because they have to. You have to have some kind of desire, some passion. You have to want to try.’

Is it difficult to learn Japanese when your first language is Dutch?
‘Japanese belongs to the same linguistic family as Korean, Mongolian and Turkish so for most Europeans Japanese is a very foreign language. Although it won’t help much when learning Japanese, there are some Dutch influences in the language. For 250 years China and the Netherlands were the only countries Japan traded with. They liked the Dutch because their only purpose was to trade and they didn’t try to spread Christianity. Some examples of Dutch words in Japanese are リュックサック (ryukk-sakk)   from the Dutch rugzak, スコップ (skopp) from schop, and  おてんば (otemba) tomboy from ontembaar .

Learning about a culture is important when learning a language. Can you give a Japanese example?
‘In Japanese we have a word, suimasen. It literally means sorry but we also use it to say ‘thank you’. The idea behind this is that we think: you make an effort for me. So instead of saying ‘thank you’ we say: I feel sorry about making you do something for me, about taking some of your time. That’s the psychology of Japanese people.’

Learn Japanese at UvA Talen
If you would like to learn more about Hisami's language, then sign up for a Japanese course! UvA Talen offers Japanese language courses at two levels: Japanese beginners and Japanese level 2. In addition to these group courses, UvA Talen also offers Japanese at any level required as indivudial and corporate courses. The next Japanese group courses start in January.