Photo by Christina Yang

Keona Lee, Japanese student and junior, participated in the Carmel-Seikyo Japanese exchange program and she said it helped her understand the Japanese language better.

“When you’re learning a language, the best way to learn it is to learn it first hand because when you’re here, you are so far removed from the actual country that speaks it,” Lee said.

Lee said she noticed that the way she learned Japanese is different than the way it is spoken in the country.

“Here we learn it very formally and over there they speak it (informally). Overall, they could understand what I was saying, and I could understand what they were saying,” Lee said.

Lee also said she thinks it is best for teachers to teach the language authentically to students.

“If you learn (Japanese) here, it’s different from how it is in the home country.  When you go there yourself, it’s going to have a discrepancy and make it harder to communicate with people who are natives there,” Lee said.

German teacher Angelika Becker said to learn a language, it is important to immerse yourself in the mother country.

“In the country, you’re forced to speak (its language) because you have to survive (and) you may be the only one that speaks your language. When we teach in the classroom, (students) understand you when you speak English, so you don’t have to use it,” Becker said.

Becker also said she tries to incorporate relics from Germany into her class,  to introduce them to the culture and to be as authentic as she can. 

“When (students) talk to a German teenager for instance, (the German teenagers) speak fast; they speak fast in German and they speak fast in English. I think that is important that you expose (students) to what they really can expect in the target culture, and that’s why we need to be authentic,” Becker said.

To Lee and Becker, it is more than just learning the fundamentals of the language; the communicative aspect is important as well.

“We need to teach for communication, because that’s what language is and the grammar rules are the nuts and bolts. There are some grammar rules that are important, and if you don’t know how it works, then your communication breaks down,” Becker said.

“It’s more natural, plus, here you can slip back into English and that other person would understand, but over there you have to speak Japanese or the other person won’t understand you,” Lee said.

Becker, who was born in Germany, said when she traveled to the United States, she noticed the English she learned in Germany was different from the English she experienced in the United States, just like her current German students.

“You realize it is not a school subject; there are real people using this language, (and) you don’t just learn for the sake of learning it, you will use it, and you will realize how many things you don’t know and how many things are different,” Becker said.

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Jordyn Blakey

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