The Japan Foundation are delighted to say okaerinasai (welcome back!) to Kelvin Liu, the UK participant of the Japanese-Language Programme for Outstanding Students of JF Japanese-Language Courses 2015. In this programme, a participant of the Japan Foundation’s Marugoto Japanese Language & Culture was selected to visit the Japan Foundation Japanese Language Institute, Kansai in Japan and to take part in activities to deepen their knowledge of Japanese language, society, and culture.
We interviewed Kelvin to find out what he thought about the programme and to hear all about his exciting experiences....
What did you like most about the Programme?
“The programme had exceeded all expectations by far. I was looked after from even before I flew from the UK to the minute of departure. My stay at Kansai Centre was great as the facilities at the centre was very good and all staff were very friendly and helpful. The location of the centre was conveniently sited, being next to Kansai Airport and within easy reach from Osaka. The location itself, Rinku Town was brilliant too as it offered a variety of shops and entertainment options. Each day was exceptionally great both during official hours as well as after hours. There was not a single day which I felt was average. Although this was mainly a study trip, there was still time in the evenings to do some of things I wanted to do like riding the Rinku Town Ferris wheel with others.
I was with 28 other participants from various countries and had the chance to practice speaking Japanese on a daily bases with someone who is also a learner. Although I was probably the weakest one in the group in terms of language ability being Elementary and not even done JLPT N5 and at times had difficulties understanding, nevertheless I still had great fun speaking the language and testing my language abilities to the limit. In the end, I made a lot of international friends and we still keep in contact via the Facebook group which I had created and through an instant messaging chat room.
The time when the programme took place was ideal. Being in autumn, I had the exclusive opportunity to see for myself what momiji (the red autumn leaves) is all about and learn why Japanese people appreciate the season so much. Furthermore, the Osaka Orienteering task took place on the 31st October which conveniently placed me in the city to witness how Japanese people do Halloween, which is very different to what we see here. It was 100 times better and the costumes varied hugely from being super kawaii (cute) to super kowai (scary).
The day which particularly touched me was the day when we visited the elementary school. The children were very well behaved, friendly and "genki" (lively). I have only ever witnessed a Japanese school in anime and films of which school settings are very popular. This visit has allowed me to experience what a typical school day for a young Japanese person is and see how a school is ran. Next time I watch something, I can better understand the scene setting and surroundings.”
How did the Programme help you to learn about Japanese and Japan?
“I returned to the UK knowing much more about Japan than I had before I left. I learnt about school and the Japanese education system. I gained keeper knowledge about religions in Japan and its shrine/temple culture and how Japanese people worship their kami-sama (gods).
By undertaking the two cultural activities, I gained a deeper knowledge into ikebana (flower arranging) and sadou (tea ceremony), for example, I never realised that conducting a tea ceremony involves so much work and such there are three year courses available just to learn how to serve tea! In the two hours I was there, I must have only had a brief glimpse of the art of sadou.
I had definitely improved on my conversational Japanese especially the usage of informal words, which wasn't taught in the Marugoto course or in past self-study text books.”
Do you have any advice for Japanese language learners thinking of going to Japan to study?
“My advice is just to go for it. It is very different between reading up about something to actually being there to experience it and speaking the language on a daily basis. Lots of knowledge to be gained, lots of fun, laughter and potentially friends for life.”
We may be offering the chance to participate in the Japanese-Language Programme for Outstanding Students of JF Japanese-Language Courses 2015 to participants of our Marugoto courses in the future. If you would like to receive updates about enrolment on the Marugoto courses and all our other activities, please sign up for our e-bulletin here.