What it was like learning Japanese at Western (F.O.S.A.K)

Hey Guys, Yannick here.

Over the past 5 years, I have had the pleasure of learning Japanese from 5 extremely great mentors who have become very important to me during my University Career. Now, I’m not going to write their names here, but I hope if anyone learns a different language that you find the same amount of joy that I have found from the joys and despairs of these courses. After writing this whole thing, I’ve seen that this blog is really a thank you for all that my Japanese mentors have done for me and this is a real reflection of my journey going through the Japanese Program.

Note all F/O/S/A/K. should be seen as F. 先生 (Teacher/Sensei) when you read them.


So, it started with F! This course definitely took some work, but I realized the only course that gave me any joy in my first year of university was this 8:30 am torturous course of memorizing Katakana/Hiragana/Furigana. Now some people entered 1st year Japanese thinking it would be easy, but I chose this course because it was something truly enjoyable and I would love to learn what the heck the real voices of Inuyasha or the lyrics of JPOP REALLY said. So this torturous memorization class of Hiragana charts or vocabulary, or even never even understanding the question “ご出身は?” in the middle of a test. All of this, was worth it at the end of the day because what I really ended up with is a decent course mark in Japanese, a great relationship with my professor and finally meeting so many people in my class with the same interests as I.





A was a different situation, originally I planned to take class with a different teacher on campus. Long story short, NEVER put all of your classes on two days of the week unless you want to be on campus one day while staying home the next. Nu ugh, don’t do it gurl. A was always a class that was pleasurable to go to, she would always make conversation and do her best to assure every student got as much oral practice as possible. It also really helped that this class had less homework compared to my class in first year. This class wasn’t as hard as the first year in my opinion, but it definitely helped to protect me from the harsh reality of second year science. Overall, it was a good class where I think anyone had the opportunity to practice their Japanese and if you had the proper work ethic which F. had trained me with in 1st year this class would not be difficult.





So, this class was a bit rougher than I thought it would be. My 1st and 2nd year of Japanese class very a very simple cookie cutter schematic. The only difference in the 3rd year was that the curriculum had a bit more complicated expressions and more vocabulary and oh yeah let me remind you that Japanese ACTUALLY HAS KANJI! So it had more kanji, no big deal; but, the tests were harder and it didn’t help that sometimes the test expectations were not explained completely all the time. Nevertheless, as students we do have to be prepared for anything and are not expected to always be ready. What really made this class difficult sometimes was…, that certain disrespectful actions towards you or other people never went noticed or disciplined. It was your 1st year teaching this class, SO I understand and would still like to let you know that your class was very useful at the end of the day of learning Japanese. It showed me that there might be something I don’t expect in 4th year and I should be able to prepare for it.





Words cannot describe what I learned in this class. My fourth (final) year Japanese class at school was the most difficult class I ever had in all of my University career, even my science classes. I think that’s because this class meant so much to me. Now I knew this class was hard before I even entered on the first day, 30 minutes late – I’m sorry. The spring term before I kept coming to your office wondering if you were going to teach this class knowing that the regular professor was going on sabbatical. Though I never knew how low my Japanese level really was compared to the individuals who could speak it well, or to the native speakers, or just the speakers who had the ability to read Kanji at the push of a button. Not to mention this class was extremely difficult with 237 Kanji and increasing every unit, the vocabulary was hard, for peet’s sakes I was reading Psychology and Physiology in Japanese class. It was super hard to speak, even about my weekend when I returned from Summer Vacation. But you never gave up on me, I would come to your office and you would always be willing to help the best you could. I also gave my best effort for that class, which I don’t think I really gave for a lot of courses throughout my university career. Looking back at it now, I miss the quizzes, the test, the unease, the difficulty, the triumph, the friends, the weird events, the 8:30 am and the awkward moments when talking about Gunma University. One of the things I miss the most is you asking me my opinion about a topic and I would either lead the charge (this would be because my  comprehension and ability to continue others discussions was a bit low at the start) and say what was on my mind, or have NO CLUE what to say because the passage was SO difficult. I miss every bit of your teaching and this class, at the end of the day this class was not extremely difficult if you knew you wanted something out of it. Shirin Nezammafi’s words – Japanese is difficult, but it depends how far you will go with it.






So I didn’t really have a Japanese language class with you, but that’s the wonderful thing about your teaching. You really did what you said you would, you taught me that it’s important to argue not based upon empathy, but on empirical evidence (at least in my academic work). Your class didn’t even just teach me about Japan, or the weirdest movie scenes I HAVE EVER SEEN IN MA LIFE. It taught me that there are areas in my life I lack and there should be a connection between what I learn all throughout my life and that I should be able to take the lessons and really integrate them into all aspects of my life. Your class was a blast to take and thank you very much for being so understanding of everything that occured.


TLDR: This is thanks to all my Japanese mentors who have helped me throughout my journey and I hope that one day I can come back and show you I’ve done something more with the lessons you taught me besides a rejection :).

2 thoughts on “What it was like learning Japanese at Western (F.O.S.A.K)

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