(SOUNDBITE OF INTRO SONG, “BBUSYEO”)
TIFFANY TRAN, HOST:
(In Japanese) Hello, I’m Tiffany, the host of SCPS.
(In Korean) Hello, I’m Tiffany, I’m the host of SCPS. Thank you for coming to listen today.
(In Chinese) Hello, my name is Tiffany. I’m happy to talk to you today.
Welcome back to SCPS – Silver Creek Podcasting Station. I’m your host Tiffany Tran, and I just showed you the 0.000000001% of the world’s many languages.
As we live in California, we come across a variety of cultures and languages in our everyday lives, and it’s not uncommon for many of us ourselves to speak at least two languages. And it’s even less uncommon to get those two languages mixed up as we go about our day. You could be speaking English and suddenly forget a word, but you know exactly what that word is in your native tongue. It could get extremely annoying at times, but you get to sound smart when you say, “Oh sorry, I forgot what this is in English.” Instead of just saying you lost your train of thought.
So we’ve established that some of us are fortunate enough to speak more than one language. But what about the teachers, the ones who probably helped us develop this skill in the first place? I got a chance to speak with Ms. Hutchinson, our Japanese teacher, and asked her a few questions.
(SOUNDBITE OF CONVERSATION RECORDING)
TRAN: (In Japanese) Please-please introduce yourself.
HUTCHINSON: Alright… I will introduce.. Bleh, that was terrible, let’s restart.
TRAN: (In Japanese) Please introduce you- introduce yourself. Ah-
HUTCHINSON: (In Japanese) One more time!
TRAN: (Laughter) Please introduce yourself.
HUTCHINSON: (In Japanese) I am Ramona Hutchinson, I’m a Japanese teacher at Silver Creek High School. I’m 33 years old, living in Salinas. I love cats and tea, and I really hate swimming. Thank you.
TRAN: Thank you. Alright, I will ask the questions in English. Please answer in English as well~
HUTCHINSON: Ok, I got it.
TRAN: The first question is – if there was a student that was, let’s say, above the level of that class, how do you determine that?
HUTCHINSON: If I have a student that has a previous background [in] Japanese, I arrange a meeting with them, and then I talk to them in Japanese, and I have, like a checklist of various topics we cover in the different levels and the different grammar points that we use in the different levels, and I’ll ask about things from those different topics using the different grammar and figure out, like which level they should be in. And then I also ask them to do a writing sample and I kinda see if it matches or not – if they’re able to do hiragana and katakana and KANJI, because I’ve had situations where people actually KNEW a fair amount of grammar and vocabulary, but they didn’t know the writing system at all,
HUTCHINSON: so they couldn’t skip ahead as easily, so I look at all of those things!
TRAN: Ah.. I’m not trying to brag, but I was one of the ones who skipped a level, and it was really fun. (Laughter)
HUTCHINSON: Yeah, it can be really fun. ‘Cause otherwise if I had kept you in the first level, you would’ve been BORED.
TRAN: Yeah! (Laughter) I saw the homework and the assignments from my sister who was in level one and I was like, that was just so easy!
HUTCHINSON: Yeah, but if you can’t read yet, like, you have to go through how to learn to read first, otherwise it’s a HUGE struggle.
TRAN: Yeah. And what is the hardest part about teaching a foreign language?
HUTCHINSON: Um.. the hardest part is sometimes just trying to figure out how to explain things because Japanese is SO different from English. So someone will ask me, like, “Well we use this particle for ‘and,’ but sometimes we have to use this one, and sometimes we have to use this one, why are there all these different particles for ‘and’,” and trying to like, break it down to explain WHY and in what situations can sometimes be difficult – um..to explain. You just have to experience it over and over. So yeah sometimes just EXPLAINING it because it’s so different from English can be difficult.
TRAN: Ah.. What is your favorite part about teaching a foreign language?
HUTCHINSON: My favorite part is seeing how quickly people learn things and you come in and you don’t know anything, and then, by the first semester in, you can read entire paragraphs and I think it’s just amazing how people are able to pick it up. Um…and seeing people feel happy when they realize they’ve learned something and [they’ve] achieved things. Or that lightbulb moment, like, when they come to me and they’re like, “I was watching anime and I heard this word or phrase and I actually understood what it meant!” Like, to me, that’s really worth it.
TRAN: Ah, yeah that is really rewarding. And do you get English words and Japanese words mixed up sometimes?
HUTCHINSON: Uh….I don’t really mix them up, but sometimes, I’ll be able to think of a word in Japanese, and I completely blank on what it is in English.
HUTCHINSON: Sometimes the other way too, but fairly often it’s actually like I’ll think of something in Japanese and I can’t quite figure out how to put it in English.
TRAN: Ah.. and the last question is, what language do you think in?
HUTCHINSON: I mostly think in English, most of the time. But sometimes I do think in Japanese, so I think it’s a little weird that sometimes I blank out on an English meaning when most of the time I think in English.
TRAN: (impromptu question) What-what language [do] your [cats] speak?
HUTCHINSON: Uh… my pets speak nekogo
HUTCHINSON: cat language (laughter) um.. I mostly talk to them in English but sometimes I talk to them in Japanese. I don’t think they understand either one, though.
TRAN: Ok, thank you so much for answering my questions and doing an interview. Do you have any last comments?
HUTCHINSON: Um.. just everybody, we’re almost at the end of the semester. Hang in there, you can do it!
TRAN: Yes!! (Laughter) Thank you!
HUTCHINSON: (In Japanese) You’re welcome~
TIFFANY TRAN, HOST:
You heard us struggling a little bit in the beginning there. It’s really hard as a simple human to balance out the complexities of all these different languages and process them. But once you do, it’s super rewarding and you discover you can understand all these new words and phrases. Open up your mind, learn a new language and challenge yourself. That Duolingo bird is always waiting.
A special thank you to Ms. Hutchinson for interviewing and making this podcast possible. Thank you all for listening, and see you next time!
(SOUNDBITE OF OUTRO, “BBUSYEO”)