This is Jeremiah Bourque, your humble and highly motivated director. My department is dedicated to teaching Japanese via the English language (at first, at least). Even non-native speakers of English have found my classes to be highly informative, so no matter who you are, if you have an interest and a passion for Japanese, look no further.
Once upon a time, I was in your shoes. In fact, my challenge was considerably harder; I badly wanted to learn Japanese, but I live in eastern Canada. Where would I learn Japanese? Not from the universities! If it’s not English, French, or failing that, Spanish, they don’t know you. Not from Japanese natives! Too few live in these parts. Not from moving to Japan! No money for that. So, I rolled up my sleeves and started learning it on my own.
You know what? It was hard – very hard, brutal in some senses, because I didn’t have anyone to help me. Yet every day I was learning something new, some small aspect of the language I didn’t understand before. I focused on the resources I could make available to me: books, the Internet, text-rich imported Japanese video games, and more. Eventually, I became good enough to make baby steps into professional translation, which was my original goal. I have to tell you, it wasn’t easy! After years of translating manga, even a series of light novels (Slayers! 1 through 8 for TOKYOPOP), and some bruises from bad experiences in the industry, I turned my attention to education. I wanted to help people like you learn this language with a lot less pain and suffering than I did.
What my experiences gave me was a deep appreciation of prose and dialogue, to a degree that even most professional translators lack. After all, much of what I was translating was extremely well-written creative fiction; not understanding was simply unacceptable. So, I made myself learn the hardest parts of the language first. You can always learn more vocabulary; you can always learn more specialized knowledge and trivia; but you can never replace knowing the fundamentals deep in your heart.
Today, I am enjoying watching the remake of Fullmetal Alchemist, the quirky new series Dance in the Vampire Bund, the far less tear-your-hear-out time wasting remake of Dragonball Z – all 100% raw and untranslated, and understanding virtually every single line of dialogue, every nuance, every tiny detail. It can be done.
Now, am I asking you to do this on your own? No. I’m saying this: I am here to teach you as much Japanese as you want to learn, and help you learn it in a rich, fulfilling, thorough, and very fun way. It’s hard work, but you don’t have to suffer. A good teacher, a well thought out course, and an openness to student feedback can make all the difference in the world, and that is what I offer here.
Japanese is taught here with three major components.
Fundamentals and Grammar: Grammar is the structure of language; without it, the language collapses and turns into an ugly pile of half-understood words. At least some grammar must be understood before doing anything serious in Japanese. However, grammar is best absorbed by seeing it in the context of the living language, spread out over time. So, while teaching the other major components, we will be routinely doubling back and covering some aspect of grammar and the Japanese cultural context that the language exists in. Then, you will see, over time, how this works in real life and why, once you know what’s going on, it makes sense.
Vocabulary and Specific Knowledge: This is the “meat” of the language. If grammar is the structure, vocabulary forms the living furnishings and the artwork hanging from the walls. Grammar simply frames the vocabulary, organizing it so that we can understand ideas. As a former translator, I am one of the best placed individuals you can find anywhere to explain things, to give you context, and to elaborate as required to make things make sense. As you use the language for yourself, you will reinforce your vocabulary and come to understand it in a way that will bring a smile to your face and a twinkle to your eye. Japanese is a wonderful, beautiful, intricate language, and vocabulary is one place where it shines. Other information can be very field-specific: academic settings, the business world, tourism, and much more.
Cool Stuff: If grammar is the structure, and vocabulary forms the furnishings, this is the 50″ TV bringing the world to you in high definition. Japanese is not just a language of beauty; it is the vehicle by which a huge ton of what I call “cool stuff” comes before our eyes. Let’s be honest here: a lot of us want to know Japanese for motives besides academic knowledge and utility in the business world. We want to be able to experience all this incredible stuff out of Japan in its native linguistic environment, reveling in the utter coolness of it all. Yes, we may want to pass specific tests like the EJU, the JLPT levels, and so on and so forth, but we should never lose sight of having fun. It’s too important and precious to let slip away.
Grammar, vocabulary, and cool stuff: that’s where it’s at. These are the three pillars of knowledge in my Japanese department. Without grammar, vocabulary and cool stuff wither on the vine; without vocabulary and cool stuff, grammar is a chore without a point. Together, they are the three branches that will not break where a single one would easily snap. Together, they reinforce knowledge, making it vivid in your mind.
After all, Japanese is not a language that can be memorized. It is a language that must be learned.