Hello! I’m Azumi from Yokohama, Japan. I’ve been teaching Japanese for 15 years in three different countries: Canada, Colombia and Brazil. I teach Japanese in English, Spanish or Portuguese. I started teaching on iTalki at the beginning of last year, and for me, iTalki has been such a wonderful tool because now I can connect with students from all over the world! I teach all levels, from pre-beginner’s to N1 (the most advanced level in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test-JLPT).
Over the course of my career, many of my students have become fluent in Japanese, and/or passed both JLPT and MEXT scholarship exams (scholarships provided by the Japanese government). Some of my students that started from 0 on iTalki are now going onto upper-beginner or intermediate levels and speaking Japanese quite well, while others are prepping or have prepped for various levels of JLPT. For example, all three of my students that were prepping for JLPT in 2019 successfully passed, and I am very proud of every single one of them. I haven’t had the chance to prepare any students for MEXT scholarship exams on iTalki yet, but I’m looking forward to doing so :)
In my experience, the following are key elements in order to succeed in JLPT and/or MEXT scholarship exams:
- Don’t leave any holes in the basics!
Unfortunately, there are so many things in basic Japanese grammar that are not well explained (が particle vsはparticle for subject, に particle vsで particle for location, the fact that すき、きらい、ほしい、-たい are adjectives, just to name a few). I find that explaining these little things in detail and explaining how we express ourselves in Japanese is the key to creating a solid base. Without it, it’s difficult to make it to advanced or even intermediate levels.
- Explain aspects of the Japanese culture as well as the grammar and/or vocabulary.
Japanese has so many words and phrases that don’t translate well into Western languages. For example, we have a verbくれます, which means “to give to me”. It can only be used when someone is giving something to you or your “clan” (your family members, your coworkers, etc). We also use verbs like あげます (to give) andもらいます (to receive) to talk about favours, while “to do a favour” is the only direction of transactions that you ever use in English in this context. When going through these topics, I find it helpful to explain how gifts and favours have a different importance in Japanese culture so my students can understand the grammar as well as the reasons why our culture may have created these ways of speaking.
- Continuity is the way to go.
Learning a language can be tough, especially when your target language is as unique as Japanese. The sheer volume of information to be digested can seem overwhelming for sure! Always keep in mind that the important thing is to learn well, and not necessarily to learn fast. Start with one lesson a week, but always keep going! It’s much more effective to have 4 hours of lessons distributed over four weeks at one hour per week than to have a 4-hour lesson every month, or to take many hours of lessons in a week and stop for three weeks. I try my best to make my lessons dynamic and fun so it becomes something my students can look forward to.
The biggest challenge I have faced definitely has been preparing students from diverse backgrounds and with different learning styles for standardized exams. This is particularly tough, as Japan has a very rigid way of evaluating the language skills in general, and students coming from different education systems may have a hard time adjusting to it.
I always make a great effort to find out what kind of a learner a particular student is and give personalized advice. For example, I am a traditional left-brained learner. Writing something many times and doing drill exercises work very well for me to interiorize information. But this is not the case for all my students. Creative people often learn very well visually, meaning that drawing out a word with colours may be much more effective for them than simply writing it out many times. Others learn so much more from listening, which means providing them with materials that come with audio tracks may be crucial. Talking to my students about their learning style and asking them to observe what works for them is essential to an effective learning process.
And despite all the challenges, I feel it is absolutely worth it when I hear my students talk about how much anime or Japanese TV series they can now understand or when I see my students studying at a university or working in Japan, embarking on a great adventure of their lives in my home country. I hope I can continue helping more students make their dreams come true on iTalki!
From Azumi Ohara (https://www.italki.com/teacher/5825720)