For me, learning Japanese as part of the then Japanese Studies Certificate programme at Bishop’s was a fun learning experience and a valuable part of my life. My mother tongue is English, my second language is French, I have tinkered in Spanish, and I am now fluent in Japanese. Although languages are not directly related to my profession (I am not a translator, interpreter, writer, or historian), they do touch my life in many ways. My life path has brought me to live in Japan. I am married to a Japanese woman and have my own software company in Kobe. Additionally, I do free-lance consulting as a negotiator for Japanese companies that need to deal with Western partners and suppliers. In all the language courses I have taken over the years, the Japanese courses I took with Hizawa Sensei were the richest and most enjoyable. Not only is his knowledge of grammar deep and precise, but he is also able to explain things in a way that, for me at least, was easy to grasp. There was never a question he was unable to answer, and he would always bend over backwards for his students, eager to provide them with the best education they could get. I am grateful for this experience, and I often wish I had somebody around me now while I continue to grapple with the strange constructs and bizarre expressions I encounter during the course of my day-to-day activities. I have often discussed Japanese language education with my peers. Some people get more hands-on training through more drills, but ignore such basics as hiragana and katakana. Now that I am where I am, I can confirm that Hizawa Sensei’s approach in teaching proper grammar and writing in addition to aural practice is the right way to go. Since I am too busy at work to take up any formal language courses, without the grammar base I received during the course, I would not have a leg to stand on now. I truly believe that I have been able to attain the level of fluency I have now in Japanese despite these constraints thanks to the education I received at Bishop’s with Hizawa Sensei.
And he makes it so fun, too!
Photo: David Leangen, in North Hatley in 1998 when we had a party at another David’sDavid Leangen, Successfully completed the Japanese Studies Certificate Program in 2000. CEO, Bioscene Informatics, Kobe, Japan
I am a recent Bishop’s graduate, currently residing in Tokyo, Japan, and I would like to give a testimonial of my experience in the Japanese Program at Bishop’s. Although I did not complete the third and final year of Japanese courses, which is what I needed for a Japanese minor, I got more out of the language and culture classes than I did out of my entire four years in the Business program. Of course any program is what you make of it, but the Japanese program–particularly Hizawa Sensei–provided the opportunity to really absorb the content of the program. You can study any topic until you go blind, but developing a passion for what your learning actually makes the effort worth it. It’s easy to fall prey to the Lennoxville bubble, where your “cultural” exposure can greatly hinder your concept of the bigger picture.
I confess I had an ulterior motive for choosing the International Business concentration, which was because it required a stint in the exchange program, and not because I enjoy the international politics or transactions; the concentration also required that I study a second language, hence my pursuit of further studies in Japanese language and culture. Although I didn’t use the exchange program as an opportunity to travel to Japan, I did reap the benefits of broadening my cultural understanding in the Japanese program.
Thankfully the classes are small at Bishop’s, leading to a better rapport with professors, and the Japanese classes are no exception to this rule. One does not need to be the best student by any means to receive the dedicated attention and support of Professor Hizawa. The flexibility of the program allowed him to indulge my interest of Japanese business practices and ethics; he included a few lessons on the topic in the Culture and Society curriculum. Business practices and ethics are a good reflection of behaviours and attitudes of the nation in question, and all has been relevant in my dealings in Japan. And this is what learning in university is all about–linking studies across various fields in order to foster a broader understanding in all of those fields. Since I also majored in Fine Arts, I studied a few Japanese contemporary artists and made some incredible links across the three fields I studied (which makes for much more interesting presentations!).
In addition to the language and culture lessons, Professor Hizawa and his teaching assistants–whom are also invaluable assets to enhancing ones’ perspective of the culture–organize extra-curricular activities that are very helpful. I was a really busy student, but found time to get involved in a few of the activities they organized: the (subtitled) TV drama viewing and excursions were extremely useful for different reasons. While the excursions to places like the sugar shacks (cabane à sucre) and the Botanical Gardens in Montreal are more Quebec-culture related, it provided the opportunity to meet the Japanese exchange/international students and learn more about their perspective of Japan. The TV dramas exemplify things in everyday Japanese life that may seem too mundane for a native Japanese person to think to mention; it consistently surprises me how the small interactions and reactions that I perceived while watching the TV dramas has helped me get around and understand people better here in Tokyo. All in all, the Japanese program really is a gem at Bishop’s; the dedication of Hizawa Sensei and his assistants and all the activities and discussions they facilitate, provide students with a fabulous opportunity to engage in the bigger picture.
P.S. no one really prepared me for the “little” things that you need to deal with in everyday life in Japan: the deal with the metro, registering a bike that you buy off some other foreigner, what to look for and what to avoid when applying for jobs, the most useful resources for foreigners (gaijin) in Japan, to expect certain undercurrents of racism, how to set up a bank account and with what bank…the list goes on. So, if you are thinking about visiting Japan any time soon, I would be happy to provide you with information to cushion the shock!
Photo: Chrissy at Hamilton 302, at the end of last class of JSE 202, 2007Chrissy Charlton - graduated in 2007, Fine Arts
A friend of mine convinced me that living in Japan was a great experience, so without further delay I signed up for the Japanese language course at Bishops. He had learned the language only after going there, and highly recommended doing so beforehand. I worked my way through the six semesters of class. During this time, I tried to get a Japanese Program Graduate Scholarship with NSERC, but was unsuccessful. Instead of going to Japan first, Japan came to visit me through a Kobudo instructor from Japan, invited by my teachers in Sherbrooke. Being the only person who spoke any Japanese at all, I ended up being translator for our whole group, and managed to establish a bridge between our group and our guest. The last year of class made a significant difference for this task. A few months later, I visited Japan with a friend, where my Japanese was more than sufficient to ask for directions, ask simple questions, understand the responses and partially read menus at the restaurant. I also had the opportunity to meet with one of my old Japanese teaching assistant from Yamaguchi Prefecture University in Hiroshima.
After I completed the language program, I continued to participate in extracurricular activities (Japanese conversation club, subtitled Japanese TV series, etc.) to continue improving my skills. A year after his first visit, the Japanese instructor returned, and I once again I stood in as translator. Everyone congratulated me on my improved Japanese. I had not realized I had improved that much over the year, even without classes.
My latest experience was a three week contract in Japan for a Canadian company. I worked with a distributor partner at a client site for customer support. There was very little conversation in English during work: only when I did not manage to convey my ideas in Japanese. This was my first actual full immersion in the language, with nothing else but my experience to rely on. I was very satisfied with my Japanese skills. They were not perfect, but more than enough to exchange ideas and some details. More than the average Japanese’s English skills.
Marc-André Tétrault, ing. jr., M.Sc.A.
Assistant de Recherche
Groupe de Recherche en Appareillage Médical de Sherbrooke (GRAMS)
Département de génie électrique et de génie informatique
Université de Sherbrooke
Photo: Marc-André Tétrault at La Pause Sylvestre Cabane à sucre au menu végétarien, March 2006Marc-André Tétrault - Completed 3 levels of Japanese, 2003-2006
I owe a lot to the Japanese program at BU. I originally started taking Japanese because I have always loved other languages and Japanese sounded just about as interesting as they come. Also I’ve always been seriously interested in Asian cultures. As a Canadian student, I find that I have spent most of my time studying things that concerned Europe or the States. I was surprised and delighted to discover that BU offered something as multicultural as Japanese studies. Needless to say, I loved Japanese 101. It was fun, interesting, and slightly difficult but Hizawa sensei’s teaching methods made it easy to learn. I never left a Japanese class in a bad mood. I started taking Japanese 102 in my second semester of second year. Unfortunately, it was a very rough year for me because of deaths in my family and I ended up doing very poorly in many of my classes, including a failing mark in JSE 102. The next year I decided that I wanted to take Japanese again, pass the class and do something with this language. Hizawa sensei never commented on my poor performance the year before, but rather allowed me to retake JSE 101 and 102, as well as giving me tons of encouragement. I did brilliantly in all my Japanese classes and went on to take 201 and 202. I can’t remember exactly when it was, but Hizawa approached me and told me that BU had room for another student to go to Japan on exchange. I had never really considered participating on an exchange during my university career, mainly because my marks were less than desirable let alone acceptable. However, with this as a new goal, and support from Hizawa and other members of the Japanese community at BU, as well as my dean and other teachers at BU, I managed to get all of my marks turned around and left for Yamaguchi Prefectural University in Yamaguchi, Japan at the end of March 2007. Luckily for me, Hizawa had just managed to get the JSE 150 Culture and Society class started before I left, since that proved to be the basis for my knowledge about life in Japan. My experiences in Japan were invaluable and I cannot imagine what my life would be like right now if I had not gone on exchange. So many people are impressed with my knowledge of Japan and the language and I came back with tons of great stories and friends. I travelled around Japan, learned how to use the Shinkansen, partied in Tokyo and met people form all over the world. My sister and friend come to visit me for three weeks and we had so much fun, although it was hard work being a translator all the time. My host family was amazing and went out of their way to please me. I am currently working in my hometown as the BIA manager for the downtown businesses and I am also applying to return to Japan through the JET program as an ALT. I will be graduating in May with a Major in Liberal Arts, a minor in Film studies and a Minor in Japanese studies. I hope to get a job working with the Japanese language either here in Canada or in Japan. Until then, every time I get to visit BU I try to go and visit everyone from Japanese class since I have made so many great friends by studying Japanese. Also two girls that I was friends with in Japan are now teaching English at BU and it is so neat to see them here in Canada after hanging out with them in Japan. I have only the highest regard for the Japanese program at Bishop’s University and I think that more students should take advantage of the great opportunities that come from studying a different language and culture.
Photo: Mika at the Cabane du Picbois in Brigham, March 2006Mika North - graduated in 2008, Major in Liberal Arts, Minor in Film Studies, and Minor in Japanese Studies