No.26Original text is in Japanese
Globally Common Challenges and Joy of Teaching and Learning a Second Language: Ms. Yukari Furuta’s Experience as a Teaching Assistant
At the time of university graduation, Ms. Yukari Furuta chose her career path as an English teacher. “I applied for the FLTA program because I wanted more experience, rather than becoming a teacher right away,” Ms. Furuta recalls. Even though the FLTA Program teaches Japanese language, rather than English, she thought that participating the program would be a rewarding experience since the methods for teaching second languages are similar.
At Georgia Southern University, she worked as a teaching assistant for Japanese classes, both the beginning and intermediate levels. During the second semester, she taught classes as well. According to Ms. Furuta, “the hardest part was teaching how to write the characters. It was particularly difficult to distinguish between the characters that look similar, such as the katakana tsu (ツ) and shi (シ), and ri (リ) and so (ソ).”
In order to fully understand and experience the difficulties that her students were facing, Ms. Furuta decided to learn Arabic. “For the first time, I experienced and understood what ‘unable to write’ means. This experience enabled me to discover specifically how to teach the Japanese stroke order so that my students could understand, and I tried to be more respectful in my teaching,” Ms. Furuta remarks.
Apart from her classes, Ms. Furuta conducted a weekly activity called the “Tea Hour.” Anyone interested in learning the Japanese language, irrespective of their academic major, was welcome to join. “It was difficult to plan each activity since, unlike curriculum-oriented classes, there were about 30 students at varying proficiency levels,” recalls Ms. Furuta. She asked for help from Japanese students who had been studying at the same university; she also called other Japanese Fulbrighters participating the FLTA Program at other universities to exchange ideas and, subsequently, prepared teaching materials and games.
Ms. Furuta notes that the FLTA Program participants from other countries who were assigned to the same university often visited each other’s classes and taught each other their languages.
Regarding the FLTA Program, Ms. Furuta remarks, “I want this program to be better known to all those involved in English language education, and I definitely recommend participating in this program if anyone has the chance. Looking back, it was a very valuable and fulfilling 10 months.” She had the opportunity to attempt multiple teaching methods, which would have been difficult while teaching at a school in Japan. In addition, the time that she spent with Fulbrighters from various countries and language teachers broadened her perspectives.
Currently, she is back in Japan teaching English and putting into practice the teaching methods that she learned during her stay in the United States. She is actively involved in developing classes, incorporating active learning, to make language learning fun.