If you have been hearing phrases like konnichiwa, kudasai or arigato gozaimasu around the home lately, you probably have Amy Sensei to thank.
Since joining SPLS as our language teacher in 2020, Amy McNamara’s unremitting enthusiasm for everything Japanese has translated itself to our students, whose passion for the subject is growing all the time in line with that of their teacher.
A passion for everything Japanese
Amy first encountered Japanese at primary school (just like her lucky students at SPLS), and she then began to study the language in earnest at university, in conjunction with her teaching degree.
This was then followed by two years teaching English at a school in Okayama prefecture, a largely rural area in the south-west of the country, located between Osaka and Hiroshima. This exciting and rewarding experience gave Amy the opportunity to experience the culture first-hand and hone her own language skills.
It also gave her a taste for Japanese cuisine, in particular sushi, sashimi and Japanese barbecue, which continues today!
What makes Japanese such an enjoyable language to learn?
For Amy Sensei, the way that Japanese language and culture are so intertwined is what makes it such a fascinating and enjoyable language to learn.
“If you’re going to learn a foreign language, Japanese is definitely one of the most engaging. As the language is so different to ours, it is fun to use learning about the culture as a teaching tool. We can learn about Japanese stories and celebrations, for instance, as a way of getting a better understanding of the language.”
What are the educational benefits of learning Japanese?
Having Japanese as part of the curriculum from ELC to year 7 means that our students have a great opportunity to become confident language learners before they move on to high school — a valuable skill in itself, and one which means they are well equipped to make the step up to secondary.
It also gives our students a wonderful sense of achievement. As Amy Sensei explains, “When pupils have that moment when they realise they can read and understand something written in Hiragana (the basic Japanese phonetic alphabet), it’s a fantastic experience and a powerful learning moment.
“They suddenly realise that they can do something not everyone can do, and that gives them a great sense of accomplishment and pride. This sort of confidence can then benefit other areas of their learning, too.”
It is also our aim that learning about the people and language of Japan will fire our students’ curiosity about other countries and cultures as well, a key feature across the IB Primary Years curriculum.
How does learning a foreign language help us to improve our English skills?
As anyone who has learnt another language can testify, this can also have a positive impact on our understanding and use of English.
“I actually learned more about English grammar when I started to learn Japanese at university, because of the natural way we make comparisons with language,” explained Amy.
“I also think that learning another language encourages children to reflect on their use of casual and colloquial speech, and to understand that expressions used in Australia may not be understood by speakers of English in other countries, and so there will be times when they need to use a more formal way of speaking or writing. I think this then helps to open up their minds to places beyond where they are living.”
What’s next for Japanese at SPLS?
After the overwhelming success of Japanese Launch Day on 1 April, there are many other exciting class and whole-school projects in the pipeline.
These include setting up a pen pal scheme with students at Amy’s former school in Okayama, which could expand to include video calls as well. There is also the potential for student exchanges in the future.
The forthcoming Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo will also present a number of new learning opportunities for our students to engage with Japanese language and culture. Food, too, can play a central role in fostering a love and understanding of a foreign language, and there are some exciting events combining cuisine, cooking and culture planned.
“My goal is for our students while they are at SPLS to be enthusiastic and inspired to know more about Japanese language and culture, so much so that they want to continue with it at high school.
“I also want them to feel secure enough in their knowledge that when they meet Japanese people, they are able to confidently engage in a polite conversation.”
Want to find out more?
If you want to find out more about our Japanese teaching, or any aspect of the St Peters Lutheran School curriculum, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call the school on 8278 0800.