The Official Saga Prefecture JET Programme Community
What was your biggest success?
I was doing an informal English club after school with two third-year high school students who were interested in English (although not super proficient at it). I wanted to be able to help them with pronunciation so I went on Japanese Amazon and searched around until I found a well-reviewed book (in Japanese) for helping with English pronunciation and introducing IPA. I brought that in and was showing them how to make some of the vowel sounds that don’t exist in Japanese, and watching them slowly start to get it and be able to do it for the first time, and seeing the light go on in their heads is still probably one of the most meaningful things I’ve ever done, and makes me feel good about my choice to make a career out of teaching, post-Japan. Karatsu City ALT 2011-2014.
1) Successfully planning and running my own classes. 2) Helping to organize and run orientations, conferences and the Saga Charity Christmas Party. Saga City ALT 2011-2014.
Spending 2 hours being filmed for a TV interview in 100 percent Japanese after only being in Japan for a couple of weeks. Arita Town ALT 2013-now.
I was able to travel to a lot of places around Japan – Hokkaido, Takayama, Kanazawa, Nagasaki, Kagoshima, Beppu, Kyoto, Nara, Kumamoto, the list goes on. Traveling around Japan and learning more about its culture and history always reinforced for me why I came on the JET Program and always made me fall in love with the country all over again. Omachi ALT 2012-2014.
I would say my biggest success has been offering a new and different perspective without seeming pushy or condescending. (Well, at least sometimes I succeeded to do this). As a CIR I am often asked for input or advice on what to write in an important thank you letter, how to run a workshop for students who are about to go abroad or what we can do in Saga to increase tourism. In these sorts of situations I’ve made a conscious effort to: 1) thank the person for asking (“THANK YOU for taking the time to ask someone who is actually not Japanese”), 2) confirm goals (“So, we want to make Saga more attractive to tourists from THEIR perspective, not ours, right?”), 3) emphasize that we share those goals (“I’m totally on board! Let’s figure out a way to make this valuable for everyone involved.”) and then 4) offer suggestions/comments/advice (“Well, I know that in another prefecture they’ve tried doing so-and-so and it has really gone over well with their JETs. Could we try that here, too?”) Saga City CIR 2012-2014.
Doing a Japanese motorcycle license from scratch (took the better part of 8 months due to work schedule, and probably over $1,000 between lessons, re-tests, and getting out to the driving center in Saga from Karatsu) would be a close second. Totally worth it! Karatsu City ALT 2011-2014.
Leveling up in Japanese ability. I made a decision early on to just speak Japanese all the time, even if I made mistakes. It was tricky at first (although I came to Japan with some Japanese ability) because there was so much vocabulary I didn’t know, and what I thought I knew was completed thwarted by a thick Saga dialect, so I largely felt like I was starting from scratch again. But, over time of course things improved and conversation became more natural, to the point where I am pretty comfortable now in any situations, except with my elderly neighbor, whose dialect is still nigh-on impossible to understand! Shiroishi ALT 2009-2014.
It was passing the JLPT 3, seeing things I have never seen before, and eating strange animals. Saga City ALT 2010-2014.
Aside from passing the JLPT level 2, which was a pretty big success, the moment I realized I was pretty competent was when I started *hearing* (and understanding) other conversations in the school staffroom. Not conversations I was actively *listening to*, but being able to have Japanese conversation flow into my ears passively and understand what was being said. That was a huge personal achievement for me, along with being able to then choose to get involved in other people’s conversations if I wanted to, even if I wasn’t a part of them to begin with. Shiroishi ALT 2009-2014.
In the beginning, I could often understand (some of) what people were saying, but I didn’t know how to respond, or what to say in a multi-person conversation (rather than just one on one), so I would just listen. Now, I can actually be a part of regular multi-person conversations, for example at enkai, make jokes in Japanese, and really feel like a part of things. Since living in Japan and being a regular member of Japanese society was a big goal for me coming on the Programme, this has been a big success for me personally. Shiroishi ALT 2009-2014.
Constantly getting out and exploring. Trying new restaurants, discovering new dives, and really making the most of my time here. Getting involved in the JET community, meeting new people from other prefectures, and helping to support the people in my own prefecture. Saga City CIR 2011-2014.