Education feature: Clovis High’s Japanese course popular, challenging

Staff photo: Kevin Wilson Tyler Kendrick talks with instructor Hisano Richeson during a computer lab portion of Wednesday’s Japanese II course at Clovis High School.

Staff photo: Kevin Wilson
Tyler Kendrick talks with instructor Hisano Richeson during a computer lab portion of Wednesday’s Japanese II course at Clovis High School.

By Kevin Wilson
Staff writer
kwilson@cnjonline.com

At a corner classroom at Clovis High School, the letters go up and down and right to left, the last name comes first and the students refer to the teacher as “Sensei.”

The Japanese course, taught at two levels at CHS, has been taught for three years, and school officials have said admission to the course has sometimes involved a waiting list.

There is no foreign language requirement for graduation from New Mexico high schools, but it is necessary or at least helpful in the college application process no matter the language. Japanese fulfills the requirement, albeit with a different learning curve than other foreign languages.

“The kids who (take the course) have a challenging heart,” said instructor Hisano Richeson, who has taught the course since the family moved to Clovis when her husband J. Scott took a position with Clovis Community College. “It is difficult.”

For instance, a student who learns French or Spanish still reads left to right, and still adheres mostly to the 26-letter Latin alphabet that is a hallmark of English. Japanese writing can be written vertically or horizontally, horizontal writing goes from right to left and characters come from three different alphabets.

Additionally, said Richeson, a native of Nagoya, Japan, cultural differences also make the language more difficult. Students are taught to write their last names first and work is often done in groups, with both practices used to illustrate the importance of a family or group.

In the Japanese I course, students normally come to see the desks arranged in a circle, but on Wednesday desks were paired up, with students finding their seats via index cards when their names written in Japanese. The person at the adjoining desk was that day’s partner, and in many instances their grades were tied to each other’s performance.

The Japanese II course, which meets in the preceding 50-minute block of instruction, is mostly comprised of seniors who want to be use the language in everyday life.

“I wanted to be able to read subtitles, so I could watch (anime and other Japanese items) like I was watching an American show,” senior Francisco Chavez said. “After I finished the first year, I figured I might as well go for the second.”

Fellow senior D’Anna Pleasant said the learning curve is rising with the early weeks of school out of the way.

“I’m very passionate about the language,” Pleasant said. “At the beginning, we went over everything we learned in the first section, but now we’re furthering that and working at a quicker pace.”

Pleasant and Chavez said the most difficult part of learning the language comes from the sentence structure being more flexible.

“In English,” Richeson explained, “there is no way you omit the subject. But often in Japanese, we have nothing there.”

Computer lab work also takes place, with students given multiple-choice tests that include basic sentences with blanks and four choices of potential words to fill in those blanks.

Some of the features of the course seem more at home with lower grade levels, but help to simplify the learning. For instance, Richeson has a pen pal program with students from Japan and the students learn basic terms through simple songs, i.e. the days of the week sang to the tune of the “Addams Family” theme.

Richeson, who also teaches Japanese for Clovis Christian Schools, said an effort is ongoing for a trip to Japan in 2016 for interested students, with much of the logistics up in the air.

Source Article from http://www.cnjonline.com/2014/09/10/education-feature-clovis-highs-japanese-course-popular-challenging/
Education feature: Clovis High’s Japanese course popular, challenging
http://www.cnjonline.com/2014/09/10/education-feature-clovis-highs-japanese-course-popular-challenging/
http://news.search.yahoo.com/news/rss?p=Japanese%20Education
Japanese Education – Yahoo News Search Results
Japanese Education – Yahoo News Search Results



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