21G.501 | Fall 2019 | Undergraduate

Japanese I

Instructor Insights

Instructor Background

In this section, Takako Aikawa, Wakana Maekawa, and Masami Ikeda-Lamm reflect on what brought each of them to language teaching.

"MIT is a great place to learn new technology, not just for students, but for teachers as well."
— Takako Aikawa

Takako Aikawa: I was trained as a linguist. My first encounter with language teaching was as a teaching assistant for Japanese classes at MIT. I feel I’m lucky to be at MIT, because you can actually combine technology and language education here. There aren’t many places you can do that the way you can here. So we’re actually very lucky. MIT is a great place to learn new technology, not just for students, but for teachers as well.

Wakana Maekawa: I loved learning English when I was in junior high school. And I also loved using English to talk and communicate with people from around the world. In high school, I had an American friend who was visiting my hometown for a couple of months to experience what it was like being in Japan. I taught her some Japanese, and she taught me some English. I think that was the first time I taught Japanese to a non-Japanese speaker. And I really enjoyed it.

So since high school, I wanted to become a Japanese teacher. I found it very interesting teaching about Japan and the Japanese language to people outside of Japan. And I’m really excited when people from around the world want to learn Japanese. So at college, I decided to major in education with a concentration in teaching Japanese as a foreign language. After that, I came to the United States, and I started my career as a graduate instructor in grad school. And now I’m here. If I had asked myself ten years ago, I don’t think I would have expected to be here, talking to you. I feel very fortunate to be able to be here and to make Japanese teaching my career.

Masami Ikeda-Lamm: After I graduated from college in Japan, I wanted to explore the world. I traveled to Korea, Thailand, India, and Nepal, and everywhere I went in those countries, there were people who were really excited about seeing and talking to a Japanese person. They were so curious about Japan, and they asked me so many questions! And I was surprised to realize how little I knew, and that I really couldn’t answer the questions well. I kept saying things like “I don’t know!” or “Well, I’m not sure.” But I was overwhelmed by the passion of those people who wanted to know about my language and culture. At the same time, I really got excited about being able to communicate with those people through my language and culture. And then I wanted to actually learn how to teach the language in a more systematic way; I wanted to learn the educational aspect of that. That’s why I decided to go to graduate school in America, and that’s how I ended up here.

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Instructor Insights