Approach 取り組み方

竹 Connect with the Message
Connect with Individuals
Integrate the Study of Japanese into your Life

Connect with the Message

It is natural for you to want to overcome the language barrier, but it is not only a matter of mastering the mechanics of language. The key to overcoming the language barrier is connecting with the message and the speaker, not producing perfect sentences. When meeting an Japanese speaker, you may feel inferior or like a child because you cannot speak the language as well as they can. The temptation is to wait until your Japanese is perfect before you start using it. Approaching conversations in this way will only lead to frustration. Your hesitation to speak will cost you the attention of the person you are speaking with. It may also send the wrong message. The focal point of the conversation should be the other person, not your Japanese skills. In other words, you need to forget about using perfect Japanese in every sentence. Your focus should be understanding the speaker's message and communicating your message to them. This is easy to understand in business terms. If a businessman needs to use Japanese to negotiate in a meeting, the negotiation itself is most important in his mind. If he can communicate what he needs to say and obtain a satisfactory outcome, whether or not he uses perfect Japanese is unimportant. It is the same in everyday conversation. In order to talk with a native speaker and have a productive conversation, you need to concentrate on the messages you are giving and receiving. When you do this, Americans will be more responsive, you will get more exposure to hearing native Japanese, and you will be communicating successfully.

Connect with Individual

For many students, the temptation is to rely on textbook learning. You may think that when you have mastered a certain textbook you will be ready to speak Japanese, but a textbook cannot teach you how to communicate. The best way to develop your communication skills is by connecting with individual speakers of Japanese. You can think of them as 'live textbooks,' containing more information about Japanese daily life and culture than any book ever could. Through individuals, you can observe the language and behaviors a real person uses to handle different situations. As you look to individuals as your guides to Japanese, you will gain understanding that is based on your own experience and memories, instead of relying on what a textbook tells you.

Unlike studying a textbook, when speaking with an individual, your main focus should not be the mechanics of language. Instead of concentrating on perfecting your Japanese, think about developing the human relationship. Even with your limited Japanese abilities, you will begin to establish trust and friendship. Focusing on your relationship with the individual will help you to create your own reality in the Japanese world. Japanese will no longer be something that you were taught in a classroom or that you have read in a textbook. By building a relationship with certain individuals they, along with their language and culture, will come alive for you.

Relationship-building and communication are not always easy. Because your Japanese is limited, you may feel uncomfortable. You may feel immature because you are not responding like a native speaker. You may think that the Japanese you are speaking with will become uneasy because of your different mannerisms. When uncomfortable, the temptation is to retreat into the student role. This attitude will not help you progress. When things don't go well, you might reassure yourself that it is just because of your limited language abilities. You convince yourself that if people at least see you as a good student of Japanese, they will respect you. But, even in your native language, good human relationships are not automatic. You need to think about the other person and convey your consideration for them.

When you feel tempted to sit back and passively be taught Japanese instead of actively learning it, ask yourself why you began studying Japanese in the first place. Most likely, you wanted to be able to communicate with Japanese speakers without feeling uncomfortable. You can accomplish this is by reaching beyond your fears and being an active, considerate participant in the conversation. Your efforts will be rewarded with better communication skills and a deeper understanding of that person and their culture.

When you concentrate on connecting with individuals, you get the most out of your learning experiences. Learning about a new culture is a big task, and it may be tempting to try to meet as many Japanese people and find as many new situations in which to use Japanese as possible. However, it is better to focus on a few good opportunities to relate to native Japanese speakers. Find a few select situations and relationships that you can cultivate and put your time and energy into them. By understanding thoroughly the personalities, attitudes, and ways of living of a few individuals, you will begin to comprehend Japanese people and a part of their culture. They will become real for you instead of just abstract notions. Your study will be rooted in your own life and connected to your own real experiences with Japanese people. This will allow you to interact with them more naturally and find your own natural style of speaking Japanese.

Integrate the Study of Japanese into Your Life

Another barrier that language students need to overcome is one of time and space. Because you may not encounter Japanese in your daily life, you need to make a plan for how to acquire it. You might calculate how many years you need to spend at school, or start looking for the perfect textbook to read and master. However, this line of thinking will not help you reach your goal. If your goal is to converse and experience comfortable situations with native speakers, keep in mind that learning Japanese is a lifelong task. It is not something that can be achieved by taking a certain number of courses or studying the right textbooks. To be successful, you have to find a way to fit Japanese into your life. Meaningful interactions with Japanese-speakers are needed to continue and progress in your Japanese journey. You need to find a way to fit Japanese into your life in a way that can be maintained over a long period of time. But how do you fit Japanese into your life? At NACOS we have created a plan to help you to achieve this goal.

First, we help you to express and describe yourself in English with a 'Self Portrait.' You write a description of yourself and your background in your native language, which we then translate into a model of perfect Japanese for you. Then we match you with individuals with whom you can communicate and begin to form a relationship. Observing and participating in daily life situations, you start to understand the culture through these individuals. Next,we help you to create comfortable situations within a group of Japanese-speakers.

To help you get the most out of your experiences, NACOS will help you review and build on them by assisting you in creating your own personal text album. Your text album will include collections of words and phrases you were exposed to during your project, journal entries by the individuals you spent time with, your own journal entries, pictures, and more. You can use this text album to review the Japanese you learned and reflect on the daily life experiences you had. Using it, your study will no longer be abstract, but be rooted in real life experiences. Your text album will become your future guide to personal study. As you reread it, understand it better, and dream about the chapters to be added, you will find a lasting joy in your learning.

オレンジの花 Beauty: Self Expression
Power: Personal Interaction
Wisdom: Cultural Connection

Beauty: Self Expression
Focus on Individual

In this part of the program, the students focus on perfecting their new language through personal description. Keeping in mind the kinds of things they would like to share with others, the students write a 'Self Portrait' in their native language about themselves and their backgrounds. NACOS then translates this into the language they are studying (Japanese or English). Because it is so personal, the Self Portrait is easier to remember and relate to in their new language. Students of all language levels are urged to memorize and recite their Self Portrait fluently. In doing this, they will begin to feel comfortable with the language and discover the beauty of its intonation and rhythm. Studying it further, the students become familiar with more vocabulary, expressions, and language patterns that relate directly to expressing themselves better.

Power: Personal Interaction
Focus on Individual

NACOS introduces each of our students to a native speaker of the language they are studying. Interacting with this individual, the student forms a clear image of their lifestyle and personality. They are given the opportunity to explore the power of language to induce certain feelings or change the tone of a situation. The student is encouraged to reach beyond language ability to associate with this person in great detail. That means not worrying whether their language is perfect. The goal is communication and discovery, not perfect language. With the help of NACOS, they should try to find out as much as possible about the person by asking meaningful questions and discussing various topics with enthusiasm. By doing so, the student can discard an obscure, stereotypical image, and realize the individuality of this person. Forming a close relationship and practicing uninhibited communication skills with them is a very empowering experience.

Wisdom: Cultural Connection
Focus on the Group

In group situations, where many native speakers are conversing, many students are hesitant to jump into a conversation. They may feel intimidated or afraid that their language skills are not good enough to keep up. This is the time for the students to "be themselves" and not worry about producing perfect sentences. Communication without inhibition is the key.

The deepest understanding of the new language and culture is gained not by focusing on the language itself, but through real daily life experiences and interactions. By finding their niche in a family situation, the students gain wisdom and a knowledge of language and culture that cannot be taught in a classroom or learned from a book.

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