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Beginner Japanese

Learn the basic structure and sounds of the Japanese language, as well as the fascinating culture it is embedded in.
 
Whether you are a student learning Japanese for the first time, a parent of a student learning, or just have a general curiosity for all things Japanese, I am sure there is something here for you.
日本語 ・ 日本の文化
Japanese language and culture

Language and Culture

Stephen

Creator

Yeah, it is just me.

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A little bit about me

 

Obviously, I have an affinity for the Japanese language and culture, but I am passionate about the nature of language itself.  Ever since I was a kid, I have mimicked accents from a wide variety of languages, existent and imaginary.  I remember walking down the street with one of my brothers and we pretended to speak another language as we walked by people just so we could see the reaction on their faces.  In a country (Australia) famed for its multiculturalism (and it is),  linguistically it is still quite Anglo-centric.  Unfortunately this will not change any time soon due to many reasons - geo-isolation; a perceived lack of interest in learning anything other than the dominant English language; and a subject of lower rank in importance judged by schools and parents compared to "core" subjects like mathematics and science are but a few of the reasons that are floating around.  There is talk at the moment of introducing languages earlier in the education system, but there are a number of key stakeholders that must be persuaded for this to actually have an impact.  Principals and teachers of other disciplines must be convinced of the benefits cognitively and socially, individually and for the country, of learning another language.  It also has to be integrated into the education system with innovative pedagogy and more seriousness.  We only need to look at Switerland, Germany, the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries for effective, rigorous implementation and successful outcomes.  While they are not perfect, there is certainly a lot to learn from them. 

 

It wasn't until late primary school that I began formal education in Japanese.  Honestly speaking, I did not put as much effort as I should have into acquiring the language.  It was more a novelty than a challenge.  At high school, I was introduced to the intriguing culture and was shown strategies for learning another language.  I loved it and it came easily all the way through to the end of Year 12, but I was a teenager and switched to auto-pilot to achieve only what I had to achieve.  Nevertheless, I am thankful for the teachers I had and the very supportive (and competitive... I have brothers) learning environment at home that enabled me to learn the foundations of the language.  This made it a lot easier later on.  So, my first piece of advice to parents of students learning a language is to give positive support and show genuine interest.

 

After high school, I pursued my interest in science and graduated with a major in human anatomy.  The only reason I mentioned that is because the countless Latin-based names I memorized had a profound effect on me.  One thing led to another around this time in my life, and I found myself backpacking around Europe, soaking up the cultures and languages of more than ten countries.  I loved every one of them and witnessed the respect and gratitude on the faces of locals whenever I tried to speak a word or two in their native tongue.  This was real.  Language was so much more than a tool for communication.  It opened doors into the culture and hearts of the people.  It hooked me in.  The language and culture that won me over the most was Italian, which is largely due to all of those Latin names of body parts I learned in science.  Some people have described Italian as "lazy Latin", so that explains the familiarity I felt.  I continued learning Italian when I returned to Australia and will once again pick it up when time permits. 

 

It was at this time that I made a life-changing decision.  I had loved travelling so much but I was not satisfying my thirst for knowledge and experience by just staying temporarily in one place.  I needed to stay longer somewhere.  A colleague of mine at the time mentioned her recent experience in Japan and the ups and downs of living in a culture quite different to Australia.  Yep, that was enough.  I searched the papers for a job (internet was only just starting to expand), interviewed successfully and was at the airport around 2-3 months after that fateful conversation.  I was heading on an adventure to Japan with one backpack, not knowing anyone there except for the name of the contact I had to meet at Narita Airport.  

 

The language started to come back thick and fast, but not as fast as I would have liked.  I was also experiencing the weird phenomenon of interference - when I struggled to find the word I wanted to say in Japanese I would remember the Italian word etc..  Anyway, one year was not enough.  I had also just met someone special and this made the decision to stay another year much easier.  Two years turned into three, four... eight years.  In that time, I had lived in two different locations in Japan and worked for two very different companies.  I had changed from a travel-mad bachelor into a happily married man with kids in tow.   I had also earned another post-graduate degree in education via online learning with a university in Australia and had a strong desire to teach at a particular school in my hometown.  Back we came and wow did I personally struggle with "reverse culture shock".  Australia had changed enormously in the time I had been away.  Initially, I was employed as a Science/Maths teacher but luck would have it that there was an opening for a Japanese teacher to middle school students.  This suited me perfectly - teaching my two favourite interests, Science and Japanese.  

 

I was fortunate (or crazy) enough to complete a Masters in Applied Linguistics while working at the school.  It had been a goal of mine for quite some time, particularly due to my new-found interest in the origins of the English language from teaching in Japan.  The course helped me as an educator and as a learner.  There is so much more to learn about the nature of language, and I aim to research further into sociolinguistics and bilingualism.   

 

I hope this website can encapsulate all of the cultural and linguistic experiences that have led me to this point in time, and I can share them with you.  Please send me any requests you have and I will either answer them privately, on the website, or in a blog post.  

 

Enjoy.

 

© 2016 by Stephen Howes

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