21G.S55 | Fall 2022 | Undergraduate

Japanese V

Instructor Insights

Instructor Interview

Below, Dr. Takako Aikawa describes various aspects of how she taught 21G.S55 Japanese V in fall 2022.

OCW: This course emphasizes engagement with authentic Japanese materials such as newspapers, light novels, or film clips. How does the language that students encounter in such materials differ from the language they will see in textbooks or other purposefully-created educational materials?

Takako Aikawa: Textbook Japanese tends to be standardized, primarily using the standard Tokyo dialect. In addition, it doesn’t include colloquialisms/spoken Japanese expressions. In contrast, authentic materials like newspapers, light novels, YouTube videos, and film clips expose students to colloquial, real-life Japanese and dialectical variations. This exposure is crucial for students to learn self-sufficiently, especially as many of my students engage with Japanese media like Anime, YouTube, and music, often encountering language beyond what is found in textbooks.

OCW: What advantages were you hoping to gain by using a hybrid instructional approach, with classes conducted both in person and in synchronous Zoom sessions? How well did the results meet your expectations?

Takako Aikawa: The hybrid approach used for 21G.S55 and 21G.S56 combines in-person and synchronous Zoom sessions. It aims to enhance students’ communicative skills, especially in virtual settings. Given the increasing importance of video conferencing technologies like Zoom in global communication, this skill is vital for MIT students. I don’t want to dismiss the importance of such communication skills.

I want to note that the surveys from the past three semesters show that students appreciate this hybrid format, especially for its flexibility. (More specifically, they can come to Friday morning classes from their rooms!)

OCW: In the classes you teach, have you already seen impacts from recent improvements in generative AI? How do you expect AI tools to affect your teaching and your students’ learning in coming years?

Takako Aikawa: In the 2022–23 academic year, I incorporated DeepL (online machine translation) for a writing assignment where students wrote sentences using new vocabulary, then performed a so-called “backward translation” (from the students’ original Japanese to machine-translated English and then to DeepL’s Japanese translation) to analyze differences between their original sentences and DeepL’s translations.

For Fall 2023, I asked my students to use ChatGPT instead of DeepL for editing their sentences. The process involved (1) writing original sentences using new vocabulary, (2) using ChatGPT for editing, and (3) comparing the original and ChatGPT-edited sentences.

In coming years, I plan to integrate generative AI tools such as ChatGPT into my classes more aggressively by designing learning activities that leverage AI’s benefits. This integration is expected to enhance various aspects of language learning and teaching.

OCW: What can you tell us about the multimedia presentations that students in the class created as part of the project component of the course?

Takako Aikawa: The topics of my students’ projects varied, with about 30% focusing on Japanese food and another 30% on Japanese pop culture (e.g., Vocaloid and anime). Most presentations utilized PowerPoint, along with YouTube videos.

OCW: What would you like to share about teaching 21G.S55 that we haven’t yet addressed?

Takako Aikawa: In 21G.S55 and 21G.S56, we host two Zoom sessions per semester where MIT SDM students, sponsored by the Japanese government or companies, join and interact with my students. Additionally, I’ve collaborated with a professor from University of Tokyo to facilitate a language exchange tandem session (30 minutes in Japanese and 30 minutes in English). This is voluntary but usually attracts about 50% of my students. 

These activities are enabled by Zoom, and they offer valuable real-life interaction with Japanese speakers, an aspect I hope to expand in future classes.


Grade Breakdown

The students’ grades were based on the following activities:

  • 30% Daily grade and participation
  • 25% Quizzes
  • 25% Five lesson quizzes
  • 10% Written assignments
  • 10% Project (oral presentation, written report)

Curriculum Information


21G.504 Japanese IV

Requirements Satisfied

21G.S55 can be applied toward a minor in Japanese or a HASS Concentration in Japanese, but is not required.


21G.S55 was taught for the first time in fall 2022.

Student Information


19 students

Breakdown by Year

Mostly third- and fourth-year undergraduates; a few graduate students

Breakdown by Major

A mix of engineering, computer science, math, and physics majors, with the largest group being computer science students

Typical Student Background

Students in the class had already completed 21G.501 Japanese I, 21G.502 Japanese II, 21G.503 Japanese III, and 21G.504 Japanese IV at MIT or had equivalent experience of 2 years of Japanese learning.

How Student Time Was Spent

During an average week, students were expected to spend 12 hours on the course, roughly divided as follows:

In-Person Class Sessions

Met 2 times per week for 80 minutes per session; 26 sessions total; mandatory attendance

Online Class Sessions

Met synchronously via Zoom 1 time per week for 45 minutes per session; 13 sessions total; mandatory attendance

Out of Class

Outside of class, students completed assigned readings, studied for quizzes, completed written assignments, and worked on their course project.

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2022
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Notes
Online Textbook
Instructor Insights