Student Spotlight: Aska Okamoto
- Tell us about yourself! Where are you from? What kind of experiences have you had at UO? Any hobbies?
I am from Tokyo, Japan. I have lived in Eugene, Oregon for about 7 years. I graduated from Tokyo Woman’s Christian University and got an English teacher’s license in Japan, but I did not want to be an English teacher who doesn’t speak English fluently. This made me come to the States seven years ago. I graduated from the University of Oregon in 2016 with a Linguistics major and a Dance minor, and I worked at the Japanese Immersion Elementary School in Eugene as a Bilingual Educational Assistant in my last academic year. I helped students in both English and Japanese classes. I also did private tutoring with some students from 1st to 5th grades. That tutoring experience was completely different than the assistant position at the elementary school. I learned about time-management and project-based teaching, and I could create some materials and activities based on each student’s motivation for learning Japanese.
I like dancing. When I was an undergraduate student, I was in some faculty/student concerts put on by the Dance Department. I used to practice ballet a lot, but now I like modern dance more because I met some great modern dance teachers here at UO. I love singing and listening to music. When I feel stressed during midterms or finals week, I sing aloud and that makes me feel better.
- You’re the leader for the Japanese Language Circle. Can you share with us what that’s like?
Even though my focus is “teaching English,” I am still interested in and working on teaching Japanese also because of my previous experience in the field. From Fall term 2016, I have been a leader of the Japanese Language Circle at the Mills International Center. Both Japanese learners and native Japanese speaking students come to this circle and every week we have different people. It is not a class or anything, but certain people come every week and we are building a new community. We mostly have conversations. As a leader, I pick some random topics for each week, such as current events, Japanese or American culture differences and similarities, and new terms or trends both in Japan and in the States. I do not know how other languages run the circles, but I decided to make slides and set some target topics because our circle is sometimes quite big. If you are interested in the Japanese Language Circle, please go check this website!
- What is the topic of your Master’s project? Can you tell us about it?
My Master’s Project is titled “The Effective Usages of L1 with a Plurilingual Approach in Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) in Junior High English Curriculum in Japan”. By 2020, Japan will implement a major reform of the English education curriculum in junior and senior high schools in which English classes will be taught as “English only” in response to globalization. It is the government’s decision but teachers are seeking more effective ways to transition to only English use in the classroom. I am exploring the benefits of using the first language, in this case Japanese, in English as a Foreign Language classrooms, especially with novice learners. My Master’s Project is a research-based teaching portfolio that illustrates options for how teachers and students can use Japanese effectively to transition to an English-only CLIL classroom. I would propose some solutions for this new approach of English Education in Japan.
- What is the most valuable thing that you have learned/done in the LTS program?
Since I got the Second Language Acquisition Teaching (SLAT) certificate when I was in undergrad, I had a flexible schedule in Fall and Winter terms, so I was able to take some classes from the EALL (East Asian Language and Literature) department. I have learned Japanese pedagogical phonetics, and Japanese and Korean syntax. They were phenomenal experiences for me because even though I had some Japanese linguistics courses in Japan, it was completely different than the ones offered in the States. My target learners share the first language, in this case Japanese, so it was good to see Japanese linguistics from different angles.
Another thing that I really like about this LTS program is that we have a cohort system. That makes me feel like I am a part of the LTS program. Every student has completely different and unique learning and teaching experiences. All the feedback and comments that I get in class (sometimes outside of class also!) are very precious and always making my rigid way of thinking more flexible. In our community, we’ve been building up our relationships since last Fall term (some are from last Summer term), so I feel comfortable to give and receive positive suggestions and feedback.