No longer lost in translation

Instructor Takashi Suzuki likes baseball. His favorite baseball team is Japanese team Chunichi (The Dragons). Inside his office in the basement of the Quad, Suzuki is surrounded by a set of KFC International figurines, a porcelain cartoonish baseball statue, and various photos of relatives and friends.

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By Corinne Love

Sensei (Khai Le)

By Corinne Love

Instructor Takashi Suzuki likes baseball.

His favorite baseball team is Japanese team Chunichi (The Dragons).

Inside his office in the basement of the Quad, Suzuki is surrounded by a set of KFC International figurines, a porcelain cartoonish baseball statue, and various photos of relatives and friends.

He’s a quiet person, but polite and easily approached.

Suzuk,i or Suzuki-sensei (Sensei is Japanese for ‘teacher’) to his students has been teaching Japanese here at Riverside City College for almost 12 years.

Originally from a small town near Nagoya, Japan, Suzuki completed his Ph.D degree in Foreign Language from the University of Texas in 1996.

He finished his bachelor’s degree in English at Sophia University, Japan.

He began his “second life” in Russellville, Arkansas.

While in Russellville, he was involved with a Japanese program that helps sends out Japanese instructors to teach nationwide.

He would go on to teach Japanese at Arkansas Tech University and at Russelville High School.

He also taught English as a foreign language for two years at a prepatory school in Tokyo.

Prep schools, also known as cram schools, prepare students for training for the high School Entrance Exam.

In Japan, high School is not compulsory.

While the pressure of academics can be stressful, Suzuki managed to deal with the atmosphere without much stress.

Before coming to RCC in ’96 he applied for numerous teaching positions nationwide.

In fact, he says RCC was “the last scheduled interview.”

Suzuki-sensei is an unassuming man, and students will find him quite endearing, as many comments on ratemyprofessor.com state.

He teaches four levels of the Japanese course.

His first level of class brings in students that have some experience with foreign languages and some that have none.

Suzuki notes that in the “early stage” of learning Japanese, students, specifically English speakers, may feel challenged by the three divisions in Japanese; hiragana, katakana and kanji (Chinese symbols).

Kanji can have up to 2000 symbols.

Using an assortment of teaching methods, Suzuki incorporates drawings to illustrate simple verb conjugations, photographs, video clips and audio clips.

“The new set-up in the Quad with new technology like DVD players makes it easier,” Suzuki said.

Students are encouraged to listen to Japanese in class, as well as speaking it. The “target language” (Japanese) is used for a lot of classroom activities.

As classes go on he adds, “I raise the percentage” of how much it is used.

Suzuki introduces hiragana and kanji early in class, so the transition from Romaji (Romanized Japanese text) isn’t as difficult, understanding Kanji makes learning Japanese easier he says.

Students who have had experience with foreign languages, he encourages to use the same study techniques while providing his own.

Also, there is the magic of the flash card, which he suggests to use specifically for Kanji.

Many students bring their interest in Japanese culture and pop culture (movies, anime, video games, manga and pop music) with them to class.

He encourages them to use their interest in the culture as a “device” to learn the language. “Students bring song lyrics from Japanese pop and magazine articles” he said.

Together, instructor and student translate the material and students get a hands-on experience working with the language.

“I learn new things too,” he said.

Many people wonder is it easier to speak Japanese or to be able to read and write it?

“It depends on the student, some students find it more comfortable to speak it while reading and writing may be a bit more challenging because of the Kanji” he said.

By the second semester of the course, students have hopefully acquired enough knowledge of Kanji to be able to listen and comprehend.

“His class was very enjoyable. He would always break everything down so everyone would be on the same page.

Even if he had to repeat it a thousand times” Claudia Valerio a former student, said.

Outside of class, depending on the student, he finds that some students are comfortable speaking and practicing their Japanese with him.

The students seem to be “quite excited” to use what they have learned, and it helps further their interest in Japanese culture.

“I feel rewarded when I see my students give fantastic performances during the group skits at the end of the semester,” he said.

What excites Suzuki is the students who visit Japan and come back to tell him about it. “I’m hoping my students can visit the country” he said.

Some of his students went to Japan during the winter break.

A former student is teaching English in Japan.

“I also feel delighted when I receive correspondences from my former students…with succesful careers using the knowledge they have acquired while attending this college,” he said.

Others come back for more, re-taking the class to enhance their comprehension of the language.

Suzuki makes him self available for students, with an hour visit to the World Language Lab in the MLK building, responding quickly to his emails, and office hours.

When Suzuki is not teaching students how to say “how are you” in Japanese, (O-genki desu ka?) he spends his leisure time with his wife and enjoys having dinner at various restaurants.

A fan of all different genres of entertainment, he prefers folk music, the blues, jazz and science fiction movies.

Although, Chunichi is his favorite baseball team, he does like the Dodgers.

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