E-town professor of Japanese dedicated to equally dedicated students
Takahashi, an associate professor of Japanese at Elizabethtown College, found the cyclic nature of student and teacher through his efforts to motivate his students. Although Japanese is a difficult language to learn when compared to other modern languages, Takahashi said he tries to keep students motivated and the subject matter enjoyable.
“It’s really easy to give up or get overwhelmed,” the professor said. “If I can feel that I’m contributing to that enjoyment in any way, I think it’s a pretty rewarding experience.”
Takahashi said he is thankful for the dedication of his students. “Students are motivated because they know it’s hard,” he said. “Not many students will take Japanese just for the core. In that sense, I’m lucky.”
There are more questions from students that I don’t think about as a native speaker.”
On the receiving end, students fuel Takahashi’s research and interest in Japanese studies. “There are more questions from students that I don’t think about as a native speaker,” Takahashi said, “like all those subtle differences and meanings they ask about.”
Takahashi described how native speakers easily grasp their first language, but when teaching a native language, they must be able to explain it. “Just knowing it by growing up, that doesn’t mean you can teach,” Takahashi said.
Takahashi’s interest in teaching language came about during his middle and high school days. Living in Japan and taking English in school, Takahashi discovered that he did not like learning the language in a classroom setting but enjoyed the idea of English as a communication tool. A teaching assistant from Boston, Massachusetts, arrived at Takahashi’s school, and the two struck up a friendship. When Takahashi learned that America did not have many Japanese programs, at the time, he made what he described as an “innocent promise.”
“I’ll go to the states and I’ll be teaching English to whoever,” Takahashi said to the teaching assistant.
Two decades later, and Takahashi has reaped the benefits of his words. Though his direct connections to Japan, Takahashi can invite native Japanese speakers to E-town to provide students with unique experiences. These experiences have included a panel discussion with a Hiroshima survivor and performances of Japanese comedic styles. In comparison to Japanese programs at other Pennsylvania institutions, E-town’s program has a raw authenticity, thanks to the connections held by Takahashi.
The professor hopes to add courses in social issues and linguistics to the Japanese major and minor curricula. With his connections and dedication, as well at the dedication of his students, Takahashi may just find more time to dedicate to teaching Japanese.