The UVa Japanese Program was very excited to welcome Prof. Tohsaku from UC-San Diego to an unexpectedly rainy Charlottesville, just missing a big snowstorm on the East Coast. The IWL (UVa Institute of World Languages) invited Prof. Tohsaku as a guest speaker for its Spring Lecture Series. Prof. Tohsaku had a very busy schedule to say the least, with two town hall style meetings with the Japanese students in the morning, a visit to the 4th year Japanese course, and the main talk for the IWL community. All of his talks have echoed the importance of learning and teaching 21st century skills through foreign language education.
Approximately 40 students attended each morning session, and a student volunteer served as the MC as well as the discussion leader. Prof. Tohsaku enthusiastically shared his professional as well as personal experiences from the time he was a TA in the Spanish department to his current role as the Director of the Japanese program at UCSD and the Director of the J-GAP (Japanese Global Articulation Project). His talk was captivating and reflective to all who attended. The room was full of very enthusiastic faces, productive questions, and laughs. Students raised many questions ranging from effective ways to learn Japanese and keep their motivation high, the future of online language education, and the true benefits of learning a foreign language, especially Japanese.
One third year student commented, “Tohsaku-sensei pointed out many tough issues that we’ll be facing. I thought there were more negative factors than positive ones, which I found very interesting.” While this comment might represent students being anxious about their futures, many attendees repeated positive remarks on Tohsaku-sensei’s encouraging message about not taking studying too seriously, utilizing the unlimited resources available, thinking creatively, and finding the meaning of learning by connecting one’s major or interests to the study of Japanese. One student, who is a double major in Environmental Science and Japanese, excitedly shared her comments in my office. “I’ve never been able to explain to my mother why I’m studying Japanese besides the fact that I love it,” she said. “But now I can explain to her why I’m doing Japanese and how my other major can be connected.”
We, as the foreign language community, cannot say enough about the necessity of human connection and interaction through Japanese Education. If we were able to help one student connect her head to her heart, and the interaction with Prof. Tohsaku created a moment for students to reflect on their own learning beyond homework, I believe the event was a success. We would like to express our deep gratitude for the IWL and Tohsaku-sensei.
Written by Tomoko Marshall, on behalf of the Japanese program at UVA.