Welcome to My Japanese Learning Journey

I’ve always had great appreciation for language. I deeply admire anyone who speaks more than one language and have always wanted to count myself among them. I’ve wanted to learn Japanese since about the 7th grade — or at least that’s my earliest memory of wanting to learn.

I’ve made multiple attempts over the last 10+ years, enrolling in night classes at local community colleges, but I’ve never made it past the first semester. I’ve also tried self-study, and more recently Duolingo, with some success. When we visited Japan in 2019, I shouldn’t have been surprised that one of my favorite parts of the visit was practicing my limited Japanese language skills.

My most recent attempt at a formal class was Fall 2020. Despite the circumstances, I was excited the class was offered online — transportation was always a major hurdle for me since we only have one car and the public transit system around here is neither great nor affordable.

As it turned out, attending class at a set time for 2 hours twice per week proved to be too much for me after clocking a full day at work, even when my office is at home. This year I considered self-study instead. It seemed like a good option considering the aforementioned difficulty with lectures. Plus, I’m slightly ahead of the beginner’s class.

I was torn because I wanted the structure and opportunity for practice partners and new friends, so I decided to try yet again and registered for the community college class. But the more I thought about it, the more I worried that I would have the same issue as last year and all the times before.

And something else kept niggling at me: The community college where I registered doesn’t offer a degree or certificate in Japanese, even if you take all the classes they offer. I know it’s just a piece of paper, but I already felt short-changed just thinking about spending 2 years there. Especially when other colleges would likely be the same amount of work with a degree upon completion.

Learning is not all about earning a degree, but there’s no reason not to get one if you’re doing the coursework!

Foothill College

And since my goal is to use Japanese at work (even in a side gig) as a way to keep up my skills, I wanted a program that would be a milestone for myself until I can take the JLPT. So when all this came bubbling up in the middle of the night and kept me from sleep, I went searching for an online program that offered a degree, or even a certificate.

After a lot of poking around, I found that my previous community college offers an associate’s degree in Japanese! But the school is over 60 miles from home — definitely too far for a commute. I checked the schedule and was excited to see that not only do they offer Japanese online, but it is also asynchronous, meaning you don’t have to attend lectures at a certain time or day. Exactly what I was looking for!

I decided to apply, and since I’d attended the school before, I received a welcome email fairly quickly. One teacher was highly recommended, but unfortunately the class was full. I registered for the wait list. Then I emailed the counselor’s office asking if they would accept my previous general education (GE) credits to fulfill the associate’s degree requirements and to ask if they knew if classes would continue to be online.

The counselor’s office responded the next morning that my GE classes should be accepted (yay!), and they would “try” to offer more online classes. They recommended I schedule an appointment with a counselor if I had more questions about my degree.

So I emailed the teacher of the class I was wait listed to ask if she generally lets people into the class when they’re on the wait list, and I got in the virtual queue for the counselor’s office. I received a phone call from the counselor fairly quickly, and she confirmed my GE classes would be applied towards a new AA; all I had to take were the core classes for my desired major. In response to my question about the future of online classes, which I really needed to know since I couldn’t continue the degree if I had to go to campus, she suggested I email the head of the department directly, who turned out to be the teacher of the class I had emailed already.

The teacher emailed me back not much later and said state law requires that they add people in order, and she didn’t suspect I would be able to get in since I had quite a few people ahead of me on the wait list. She did point out that another section was open, so I registered for that one instead (and dropped the other class). I thanked her and asked the question about the online classes, and she confirmed that the core classes would continue as asynchronous online classes into the future, though the elective classes would require some scheduled lecture time online.

The whole thing was wrapped up in a day, which was much faster than I’m used to when dealing with school. And it all worked out so well!

I’m thrilled to take this next step in my journey to learning the Japanese language, which I have admired for so long. Since this is what will be on my mind most of the time going forward, I created a new section to collect my thoughts, tips, essential tools, fun facts, and everything in between as I learn Japanese.

Teena Merlan