Ashley Gauer '09
The JET program is a national program sending native English speakers to schools throughout Japan. The position ranges from high school to elementary school with community activities and speech contests thrown in as well. The experience differs for each participant. There are those who have full control of the classroom, only relying on the JTE, Japanese teacher of English, to translate. There are also some participants who are only required to speak in their native accent, meaning they do not run the class at all. As for me, I’m somewhere in between.
My experience includes junior high school and elementary school. At junior high I sometimes receive a section of the class to do a game or a listening activity. In elementary, most of the homeroom teachers do not speak English and rely on me to run the lesson. It all depends on what the predecessor did before and what the Board of Education, the boss, expects of you. Right now I live in a city with 8 JETs all under the same Board of Education and our jobs are all different.
Living in Japan is the biggest perk of the job. Even though there will always be some things that will be completely surprising and new, I think it is easy to get comfortable here. Many JETs come without knowing any Japanese and leave being practically fluent. It’s definitely the best way to submerge into the language, being that your coworkers are all Japanese.
It is a big step to take and many employers in the future see it as a huge plus when looking at your resume. It is also a big life decision, demanding flexibility and adaptability. If you can sufficiently express these traits to the JET program, then you’ll be one step closer to success when applying.
Asa student, I had great preparation through my senior research project (SCE). For my SCE in Japanese I translated “Rurouni Kenshin”. The story takes place in Japan during the Meiji Restoration. The main character of the story is a samurai from the Edo period who was known as a brutal assassin and is now making up for that by using his talents to help people. Because of the historical setting of the story, Kenshin and some of the warriors he meets use formal speech and words common amongst the samurai language. Once I noticed the commonalities, I could recognize those words and that style without having to look them up again. Each type of character had a style of speech. Kenshin, the samurai, was formal, Sannosuke, the fighter, was very casual, Kaoru, the main female character, spoke formal standard Japanese. One of the interesting challenges facing many manga, is the inclusion of original words/names for weapons and attacks. I wanted to translate these to better understand the importance of that name to the character that was using it.
I think that translating this manga was interesting for me not only because I liked the art and story, but also because it taught me about the subtle differences found in speech and language. For example, the way someone speaks can express their class, upbringing, status and emotion. Using these styles and the illustrations, it was easy for me to determine who was speaking and how they wanted to convey it. Using the language skills I acquired during my study at Mount Union. I could translate freely while only having to look up new vocabulary. If I hit a harder section of dialogue, I always had Dr. Furuhata-Turner to ask for help as well. When I presented my SCE in my fourth year, I was comfortable because I had been devoting so much time to it that I knew exactly what I was doing. I realized that I was doing something I enjoyed and it wasn’t just my SCE anymore.