The journey of a student: Beyond the call of duty

Read on about the journey of one of my students, his Japanese journey is not the normal kind which people will experience.
Learning anything is not easy. Be it games, school subjects or things of interest or for work. To learn both effectively and efficiently you need one, motivation, two, stimuli to keep that motivation strong. What does this talk about motivation has got to do with anything you might ask. I will tell you motivation is extremely important. Both for the learner and the teacher.

Can is an extremely motivated individual, he is driven by both himself and his students. Teaching is a thankless job especially when you meet students like myself. We will test the limits of teachers and then some. We require mutual respect for a good learning experience. Can has successfully gained my respect.

At the very first, I did have a slight interest in the Japanese language, but alas, interest alone will not be sufficient to succeed in learning something as complex as a language. Any language, much less a language like Japanese (with all it’s deep meanings and levels of politeness; a misplaced particle here, mispronounced word there, and víola: the meaning changes drastically.) is hard to learn. People who received an education in Singapore can identify with this due to the strict bilingual policy here. Back to my interest in Japanese, it was like a light flickering in the darkness called indifference fuelled by interests like anime and the occasional drama.

I only took my first Japanese class in the classrooms of Singapore Polytechnic motivated by prospects of meeting new people (read meeting girls) and only because no one else wanted to take German with me. The teacher was a native Japanese lady. I must admit that she was a good teacher, above average. Still, being the kind of testy student that I am, the teacher fails to hold my attention for long and needless to say, I didn’t succeed in the course.

The timing was bad. I have finally found my push for studying the language. Found my rival to surpass and all I am looking at was a letter saying thank you for “donating” to the language programme in the polytechnic but you have failed and can no longer continue into year 3 Japanese.  By sheer luck, I met the person I needed to meet. I met Can one evening outside the clubroom of the Japanese Cultural Club of which I am a member of. He was always helping out with language studies in the club. Lost sheep that I was, I readily accepted a casual invitation to join him for book shopping at Kinokuniya Orchard. During the trip there, he offered to teach me after learning that I wanted to continue. I learnt he charged cheaply and his fees cover only the course materials, which means that he is basically doing this gratis. Also he is always donating books to the club, so he was a bit of a legend back then. Doubt, however, was present. Naturally, when learning a foreign language or any language for that matter, one would prefer to learn from a native speaker. Anyone else teaching wouldn’t be able to deliver as well as. Sort of explains the language ability of most Singaporeans but I digress. You will find yourself surprised here.

Already, you might already see that he is going the extra mile. He didn’t have to teach me or donate books on the language which aren’t cheap by the way. I decided to take up his offer. However, being me, my motivation quickly faded after a few lessons. I stopped attending. Usually what you would expect from any teacher who isn’t a teacher from school is indifference. I mean, would you really take the trouble to chase after someone for his own good at your own expense? Take note that he was not benefiting financially from teaching me at all. Quite the opposite in fact.
I shall not go in details but let’s just say his lessons became much more ADHD friendly. Also, there was the a really good carrot of a trip to the land of the rising sun to the top student in class. He has incorporated small rewards and jokes into the lessons making them quite interesting. Small tidbits of trivia and information to keep it going, your interest constantly piqued. Before I realised it, I was really into it. I found myself studying. My interest was quickly becoming stronger. I improved greatly and for once, I wasn’t the worst student in Japanese class. Which brings about another point. Can can take you 70% of the way. The rest is up to you. What I mean is that, if you study under him, you can expect the class to be tailored. He adjusts his style to suit the class and attention to weaker students in the class. The other bits are yourself and maybe a bit of luck no teacher can guarantee a pass if you don’t even invest some attention to his teachings or notes. Speaking of which, are of high quality. His notes are not merely ctrl+c, ctrl+v, print, photocopy and photocopy. Notes are concise and simple to understand. Yet like a good blended whisky, his notes provide content that makes you take the next sip, the next lesson. Made of experience and a personal library of language books and teaching aids and hints of trivia. Study Japanese under Can and you are not merely studying the language per sè. You are taking in culture. Things that schools will almost never really incorporate into their lessons. Classes are no longer just classes. Rather has a closer more intimate experience. Studying will no longer become a chore if you enjoy it. As the saying goes: “choose a job you love, and you will never work a day in your life.” Same thing applies here. Teacher and student.

Whether you acknowledge it or not, Can is in my opinion, no ordinary language teacher. He has lots of teaching experience, the drive and motivation that one might say is contagious. People like him are rare. Even more so in the profession of educating. He often goes beyond the call of his duty. The air ticket to Japan is a good example. Should you lose your motivation to study if you are under him, he will help you recover it.

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