Student Comments

A Message from Kurt Niebuhr (Colby 1994):
        Without a doubt, the smartest thing I ever did was take Japanese when I was  at Colby. My reasons behind this statement are two-fold: cultural and financial.
        Culturally speaking, studying Japanese opens your mind to a culture vastly different from American culture. It's both rewarding and exiting. If you have any interest in Japanese culture (eg., art, music, history, literature, contemporary society, business, etc...) whatsoever, studying Japanese is a must.
      I'm not a linguist or a social anthropologist, but I will tell you this: the Japanese language in itself is a direct reflection of Japanese culture, and true insight into the enigma of Japanese culture is only possible through (at the very least) a fundamental understanding of the language. For example, the word "amaeru" has no English equivalent, and a true understanding of concept is only possible after one can communicate with Japanese people in Japanese.
        As for the financial rewards, it's just a simple issue of supply and demand. The United States is Japan's largest market, and US citizens with competent Japanese are just about the rarest human resource on the planet.  I currently work and live in Japan. In my final year of grad school, when I was shopping around for a job, I was literally flooded with job offers. Not all of my ex-pat friends were so lucky - Australian, Korean, and Chinese nationals with competent Japanese (which are BTW, just about a dime-a-dozen) almost always found their options far more limited. Without exception, every American with proficient Japanese that I knew was snapped-up almost immediately. Upon reflection, I myself am amazed at the ease that I waltzed into a great job - especially since Japan is in the middle of its largest & longest economic funk in the post-war era.
        I won't lie to you - Japanese is not the easiest of languages to learn. It requires time & dedication. However, that's specifically why it has such a tremendous upside to it. So, if you're looking for a personal challenge that can be both rewarding in a cultural sense and financially lucrative, you won't be making a mistake if you choose to study Japanese.

A Message from Scott Alprin (Colby 1992):
        I started Japanese at Colby my first year in Jan Plan on a whim. Actually, I overslept my French placement exam in first semester, and the course was offered in January. The Jan Plan course was intense, because we had to cram three and a half months into one month. I do not know why, but that term was the most fun I had ever had in a class. As we attempted to perform what we had learned in front of our classmates, we laughed like tickled samurai. Also, the feeling of infiltrating the impenetrable was quite rewarding. Prindle Sensei's teaching style and attitude touched something off in me, something that said, essentially, "I want to communicate with her! (not in English, of course)," and, perhaps more significantly, "I want to communicate with 'them'."
        Well, time went on, and I took Japanese every semester. The great thing was that, unlike French, no one had a head start with Japanese. I realized that Japanese was a new start for me after some discouraging years studying French in high school. By the time I went to Japan my junior semester abroad, I had the basics down, but I was not confident in the least. Then, that semester abroad, I had the best time of my life. The Japanese people I met were so kind to me. And, my life and education in America had, unbeknownst to me, been training me for Japan. Suddenly, in Japan, my jokes, thoughts, beliefs seemed, well, creative to this culture! I fell in love with Japan.
        After graduation, I taught English in Japan on the JET Program. I studied the language intensely and had the time of my life. I first met "Japan" in the winter of 1989. It is now 1998, and I am a second year law student who is taking a year off from the law to go back to Japan as a law/international student. I think oversleeping my French placement test was not such a bad thing.

A Message from Heather Eskey (Colby 1995):
        Thinking about what got me interested in Japanese, I came up with --
        Japanese was different, not just another thing alot of people know. This is what got me interested.
        Here are a few thoughts I had but I am not sure they will be of much help.
        I could suggest you stress the point to students that they will be able to learn hiragana within the first semester and progress to Kanji in the second. I think you may have to "advertise" Japanese as a language that does not take years to learn the basics of the language with Kanji/hiragana. Alot of students never consider studying Japanese since it is usually not available to them until college. So many students when I was at Colby thought Japanese was SO impossible and would require semester after semester of study to even grasp the basics. Yet these were the students who were really interested in looking at the Kanji and hiragana I was writing. I think they would have liked to have learned the writing. Working here, so many people send email to the technical support line about "how do you write such&such in Japanese....?"
        Most students, once they start Japanese are really drawn into the language, I think it is just getting them started.Once they start they seldom want to stop. Perhaps you could stress the fact to the students they could try for just one semester (learn a different writing style)- try to change the focus from Japanese being a time consuming language to learn to a language you can learn a great deal in, in one semester.
        Prindle- sensei, I think once the students start they will continue for at least 2 or 3 semsters. You may not want to advertise but if you could let the general population at Colby know "they, too, could learn a new writing style" - many would want to get involved.
        Maybe this is all information you know, but I hope my ideas have helped a bit. Thank you for asking my opinion. Sorry for the long email.
        Recently, I have alot of free time here at my office so I tend to ramble on and on.
        Please feel free to do what you whis with the paragraph. Enjoy your last few weeks of summer vacation. Although, I imagine the campus is already getting very busy. Good luck with the new school year. When you have a moment please send me a line.
Heather Eskey

Also from Heather:
To all those considering the study of Japanese:
        I never heard real Japanese until I was aboard the airplane and the safety announcement began.  It was the summer of 1989,I was a high school student going to Japan for two months with dreams of spending my summer in a foreign country and eating sushi every night. Japan was different than I imagined. During the first two months I did my communicating through body language and ate sushi about three times. Little did I know that this two month experience would extend into my college career as I minored in Japanese, into the four years I spent living in Japan after college and continuing to this day.
        The small differences were the things that drove me nuts:
    CARS: Why do seven out of eight cars have to be white?
    Why does everyone back into their parking spaces?
    And why is there a cup-holderfor every person and a stuffed animal in every back window?
    T.V.: Why are the same commercials played back to back, and the same stars on every program?
    And does every news broadcast have to be the facts and only the facts?
    SHOPS: Why do they have elevator women in the department stores?
    Why does McDonalds slowly place each item in the bag,carefully fold over the rim, and only then hand you your ordered?
    Why is the greeting "irasyaimase" no matter what store you enter?
    How can people believe that if there is a line it must be for something good?
    STREETS: Why are there so few trash cans?
    Why do people only cross when there is a green light even when no car is coming?
    And why use landmarks instead of street names for directions?
        I find it hard to believe that I miss these things but I do.  I seem to have developed a new appreciation - for the things that are truly un-American. On occassion,I know just what to say in Japanese but not in English. I see a Japanese newspaper full of Kanjii and immediately pick it up. I prefer chopsticks to a knife and fork. I miss the Japanese T.V. stars I was so familiar with, and am amazed at what can pass for service at McDonalds here in the USA. But I cannot wait in line unless I know just where it goes, and I still pull into parking spaces.

A Message from Paul Reizen (Colby 1997):
        I have been living in Japan for about a year now and can thoroughly say I have enjoyed my stay.  A large part of my satisfaction can be attributed to Colby's Japanese program, which prepared me excellently for Japan.  Japanese is not an easy language, but I found that Colby gave me the skills and preparation I needed to live in Japan.  Since most foreigners in Japan can't speak Japanese, people often asked me how I learned Japanese.  I always accredit my success to Colby's Japanese program.

A Message from : Jeff Wexler (Colby 1993):
        Early in my tenure at Colby, I made friends with several exchange students from Japan. I soon became fascinated with learning about Japanese culture and became determined to visit and experience Japan first-hand.  The Japanese program at Colby enabled me to rapidly develop a proficiency in the Japanese language as well as to further expand my understanding of Japanese culture. I found the program very enjoyable.  In addition to keeping an open door to students beyond class hours, the faculty would host Japanese language conversation tables, organize culture debates (in Japanese) with other colleges, and invite students to their homes for home-cooked Japanese meals.
        The Japanese language skills that I developed at Colby have opened doors for me in business as well.  I enjoyed working as a summer intern at a Japanese software company in Tokyo as well as assisting Japanese clients during my tenure at Andersen Consulting.  I am grateful to the Japanese language and culture program at Colby for providing me these opportunities.

A Message from Ari Druker (Colby 1993):
        I have been living and working in Japan for five years since my graduation.  Looking back, the Japanese Program at Colby provided me with the fundamental Japanese language skills and confidence that proved to be a solid stepping stone to my starting a career here. Both inside and outside the classroom, in intensive language classes, at various cultural events, as well as at weekly lunches with Japanese professors and fellow Japanese students, the Program gives individuals the opportunity not only to learn the language but the culture, which itself is so integral to the language.

A Message from Carolyn C. Bell (Colby 1989):      e-mail Carolyn
        I have been teaching at St. Paul's School in Maryland since 1991. This is a private school. I have developed a Japanese program here that starts with 5 year old students. These students have the option of taking Japanese from first grade through the 10th grade. Over the ten years that I have been here, I have taught at various levels. I have always taught the elementary aged students. This year our program has become more established. We currently have three full time teacherse. Thus, from this school year on, I am only teaching elementary school. I do love what I do. I work with first, second, third and fourth graders teaching them Japanese about an hour and a half a week. We use TPR and TWP S (total physical response and total physical response storytelling) to insure long term retention. The goal of this program is to have 12 years of Japanese study by graduation. It is amazing and I feel blessed to have found this job.