Tokyo Institute of Technology: International students complete intensive Japanese course online

Six international students of Tokyo Tech gave presentations and joined a closing ceremony online on February 4, marking the successful completion of their Intensive Japanese Course. After joining the course in October 2020 and studying for 3.5 hours each weekday for four months, all participants provided interesting talks in Japanese on a variety of topics to demonstrate their linguistic progress.

Two times each academic year, Tokyo Tech’s Institute for Liberal Arts (ILA) offers short-term intensive courses to international students who want to boost their Japanese language skills rapidly. When joining the class, most students’ Japanese abilities are limited to a handful of phrases such as “thank you.” Despite being held fully online due to COVID-19, the past winter’s classes once again proved extremely effective.

Participants during closing ceremony

Participants during closing ceremony
Presentations on a variety of interesting topics
At the final presentation session, students from Europe, South East Asia, and the Middle East spoke in Japanese about a broad range of topics including Jordanian dance, Chinese sweets, and the wines of Cyprus.

In addition to Tokyo Tech students and faculty members, their audience included a number of first through sixth graders from Senzokuike Elementary School in Tokyo’s Ota City. In past years, intensive course students have visited young local students to practice their language skills, conduct cultural exchange, and learn more about primary education in Japan. While this was not possible in academic year 2020, this online event provided an outstanding opportunity to interact with younger generations.
After the presentations, the course completion ceremony was led by Associate Professor Junko Morita, the Intensive Japanese Course coordinator. Vice President for Teaching and Learning Jun-ichi Imura was also online to individually congratulate the students for their achievements.

The event concluded with a congratulatory message to the international students from ILA Professor Hilofumi Yamamoto. “Nobel laureate Leo Esaki once said that breakthroughs are never born in a restricted domain, but rather emerge from dialogue conducted in a diverse environment that transcends academic disciplines. Our daily online discussions have truly been a breakthrough, both culturally and academically, and that brings me great joy,” Yamamoto concluded.

Comments from course participants
Fares El-Faouri

The intensive Japanese course was one of the most astonishingly beautiful experiences of my life. The teachers were all extremely kind and caring, showing us great amounts of patience while teaching us. The outcome of their endeavors emerged very fast. In just four months, I completely transformed from only knowing arigatou to having active conversations with my Japanese friends. I am so proud of myself, and I am equally proud of and thankful beyond words to my intensive Japanese teachers.

Weam Fadel Numan

Because my mother tongue is not at all similar to Japanese, I thought it would be very difficult for me to learn to speak Japanese. After the intensive course, however, I was able to understand Japanese very quickly! Thanks to the teachers’ patience and encouragement, and their affective way of teaching, I am able to have full conversations with my Japanese friends!

Alexandros Marios Makedonas

When I started this course, I barely even new any hiragana. But now I can form whole sentences! This achievement was due to the incredible sensei, or professors. The supportive and experienced sensei, who encouraged and greeted us with smiles every day, made the process incredibly fun and easy. They even organized virtual tours of Kamakura and a local school. This course went the extra step for us, and I feel that I owe all my gratitude to the incredible team of faculty members.

Tokyo Tech’s Intensive Japanese Courses
Tokyo Tech’s Intensive Japanese Courses, held twice a year, are aimed mainly at Japanese government-sponsored international students looking to progress to graduate-level studies. Other students are also invited to join if capacity allows. In academic year 2020, classes were held online to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

These courses aim to develop Japanese proficiency among beginner-level students who have just arrived in Japan. By the end of the course, each international student will have acquired sufficient language skills to make an oral presentation in basic Japanese. ILA’s Japanese Section functions as “a hub for meeting and learning” for students from different cultural backgrounds, and a safe place where international students can exchange information about life in Japan.

Classes also provide excellent opportunities to come into contact with Japanese culture, for example through exchanges with local elementary schools and tours of Kamakura provided by external volunteer groups. This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all these events were held online.

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