Claire’s Journey in Japanese - Articles | APU Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University

Claire’s Journey in Japanese

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When it comes to studying abroad in Japan, the language barrier is one obstacle that often deters many from entertaining the possibility. The unique alphabet and intricate grammatical structure can feel quite daunting to learn for those who are complete beginners in the language. Most APU students are required to attend mandatory Japanese courses. Some students go the extra mile to master their fluency by taking optional courses to prepare themselves for job-hunting in Japan. This is the story of one such student, who we will call Claire.

Claire is a 7th semester APS student majoring in Environment and Development, who comes from an East Asian country with a mother tongue very different from Japanese. She loves to dance hip-hop, listen to Taylor Swift, and watch anything ranging from anime to musical theatre. Her plan after graduation is to find a job in the tech industry in Tokyo or Osaka (but preferably Tokyo). Keeping this goal in mind, she has started her journey of learning Japanese from taking Foundation 2 up to intermediate-level classes and continued it all the way to taking Career Japanese. Amid job-hunting, I have been able to sneak in some time out of her busy schedule to interview her about her journey so far, and what tips and tricks she may be able to offer to her juniors, eager to follow in her footsteps.


A rock-solid foundation

First, Claire started out by taking Foundation 2 Japanese, the level that was assigned to her after passing the placement test. Upon taking the class, she continued to master the fluency of hiragana and katakana while being introduced to some basic kanji (or Chinese characters).

While it felt intimidating at first, she was grateful for the drive and determination she saw in her fellow classmates, because it motivated her to go above and beyond. This motivation was particularly helpful due to the class being held online in the midst of the Covid pandemic in 2020-2021. Claire’s advice to fellow first years taking these classes are to take advantage of living side by side your Japanese peers by engaging with them and consume a lot of Japanese media to immerse yourself in pop culture.

What’s up with all the projects?

Once you finish Intermediate Japanese, you have completed the mandatory requirements of Japanese language classes in APU. Many students choose to leave their Japanese language studies after finishing mandatory classes, but Claire knew that she needed to learn more to achieve her goals of mastering Japanese to prepare for her future career in Japan. She chose to continue by taking Project classes, such as Project A and Project C, which are less intensive than the regular language classes. Project C and Project A classes are focused on learning to speak in interviews and memorizing a wide range of kanji for everyday use, respectively, which Claire found immensely challenging. Claire decided in order to better focus on taking lecture classes as pertaining to her major. She highly recommends doing the same to students who want to continue learning Japanese without devoting half of their studies to language learning. as Quizlet to help memorize blocks of kanji. In her words, there really is no other way to go about it, practice, practice, practice!


Up the Ladder of Japanese

In the Pre-Advanced Japanese class on campus, Claire found the return to a four-times-a-week schedule initially jarring, but she got the hang of it soon enough. She observed that her fellow peers were much more motivated because everyone had voluntarily decided to pursue this path. She found that the APU truism that she would be learning how to write SSW or Student Success Workshop essays and assignments in Japanese, was in fact, not far from the truth. Additionally, she learned how to analyze and break down graphs, and write research papers in Japanese. Simultaneously learning Japanese academic vocabulary while tackling weekly topics, such as environmental issues, proved beneficial in achieving a high grade for the class. Additionally, the transition to taking Advanced Japanese felt less intimidating in comparison to the gap between taking Intermediate and Pre-Advanced Level Japanese. Most recently, Claire is taking Career Japanese, a class that can be extremely demanding, but familiarizes seniors with the language and format needed to enter the Japanese job market. The course emphasizes practical job application processes, including entry sheets, CVs, individual feedback sessions, and mock interviews. She strongly recommends utilizing the SALC or “Self-Access Learning Center” to practice for mock interviews alongside real ones as well.

Japanese textbook

Closing Remarks

The journey Claire took during her Japanese studies taught her that as long as you are highly motivated to learn, you shouldn’t worry about falling behind or feeling intimidated by your peers. If you’re worried about your GPA, opting for an easier class is a better idea for those of you determined to continue studying Japanese. For individuals aiming for N2 proficiency, taking advanced Japanese is recommended, as evidenced by Claire’s successful N2 passes on the first attempt. If you want to improve your Japanese without having to take language classes, taking part-time work opportunities ("baitos") is a great way of learning how to use Japanese in daily life. Overall, Claire wants all of you to know that with determination, everyone can succeed. Ganbatte, everyone!



Erin Katrina Titiheruw is an APS student majoring in International Relations and Peace Studies. She would choose cozy get-together parties with my friends over partying at a club most of the time. As an introvert most of the time, she likes the hustle of a big city where one could lose themself by finding a quiet place to read.

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