Report: AAS (Association for Asian Studies) 2010 Conference
(March 25-27, 2010 at Marriott Hotel, Philadelphia, PA)
This conference is probably the largest one of its kind in the United States, and it attracts many prominent teachers of Japanese in the USA as well as from Japan. It was a great opportunity for me to discover and absorb new, and exciting, developments in the field while refreshing my knowledge.
On Thursday, March 25th, there was an Association for Teachers of Japanese (ATJ) meeting. This was focused solely on Japan related topics, so it was a great opportunity to attend many interesting and educational presentations. There were several presentations that were truly informative for me. One of the most interesting presentations was on content-based instruction. In general, it is difficult to have totally content-based classes for elementary level Japanese, since curriculum is established to cover necessary grammar, etc. In this presentation, teachers at Colombia University explained how they are trying to integrate this concept into their elementary level classrooms by using blogs. They explained that they ask students to choose a topic and write a short explanation about it on a blog. Then, other students read this blog and provide a comment. By doing this, students learn new vocabulary that they do not learn in regular class while they research something they are interested in. Having a chance to be in charge of what they learn motivates students and this motivation can accelerate their learning. I am not sure how much time students were asked to spend on this project, but it is surely one of the ways to make learning enjoyable, and I agree that this type of activity can provide students with motivation and satisfaction. The only uncertainty I have concerns the fact that any mistakes may go uncorrected. Some students may be able to make self correction, but not all of them can, and if those who read the comments can’t make a distinction, there is a chance that they might learn incorrect grammar, etc. If I am going to incorporate something similar to this to my class, I will need to carefully examine what is most appropriate for my students before I can start.
Another interesting presentation was on Japanese for special purposes. There are schools such as University of Pennsylvania that offer a Japanese business course, and it was interesting to know that this type of course is offered as a part of the academic curriculum. In this presentation, Ms. Takami explained that although the title is “Business Japanese,” various situations and materials she uses can be useful to any students who are studying Japanese. She focuses on National Standards (communication, cultures, connections, comparisons, communities). Therefore, the course needs to be flexible and has to have strong ties to Japan. I believe that the more advanced one becolmes in studying the language, the more one needs to learn culture and other aspects of the society. In regular advanced courses we teach students using various authentic materials, and in some cases, business related topic are taught as part of the course. This is important, but I think if there is a chance to create a new course in the future, this is one of the ideas we can consider.
There were may other interesting presentations, and I am grateful to CLS for giving me a chance to attend ATJ and AAS. I am very excited to learn more about what is going on in my field, and I am certain that I will be able to use the knowledge I gained from attending this conference.