In this section, Takako Aikawa, Wakana Maekawa, and Masami Ikeda-Lamm describe how they encourage students to overcome their self-consciousness when speaking Japanese in class.
We correct students’ pronunciation and grammar a lot, and many students do feel very pressured or nervous in class, especially for the first few days. But we tell them it’s okay to make mistakes. It’s a natural process, you have to make mistakes to get better.
We want to create a warm, supportive environment where students feel they won’t be punished for making mistakes. So when we correct them, we always do it with a smile and a very warm tone, not like, “Oh, no, that’s not correct,” but like, “Can you say that again in this kind of way?” And we personally make a lot of mistakes ourselves, dealing with the equipment and stuff like that. When everybody feels that they’re not the only one who makes mistakes, it really helps.
The interview test in particular is very scary for students. We see very nervous faces sometimes, but they get used to it. We provide scaffolding and support in advance, so that students can feel more comfortable at the interview and can perform at their best condition. For example, we incorporate a variety of speaking practices including role-plays in class every day, so students are used to asking each other questions, and responding and acting in a given situation they might encounter in real life.
We also ask students to find themselves partners for the interview and to sign up together. That way, they usually find the person they feel most comfortable working with. They’re usually good friends, so it’s easier for them to find a time that works for both of them, and they can practice together in advance. They also feel more comfortable and less pressured at the interview test because they’re with a friend.