I have been much busier than expected this semester. One of the reasons is my new project, JPN201 Twitter Project. The goal of this project is to create a physical or on-line guide about Japanese college/university students’ lives to prepare students of Japanese for studying in Japan. Before starting this semester, I worked hard to write a description of the project and develop rubrics to evaluate students’ tweets. Before I had asked my students to start the project, I encountered various unforeseen incidents.
Since my students find out how Japanese college students’ lives look like, it is necessary for them to have Japanese correspondents who are college/university students in Japan. The Japanese program at Connecticut College is a part of the Associate Kyoto Program (AKP) through which our students can study in Kyoto. The AKP’s main office is located in Doshisha University. I contacted the AKP office manager and asked her for help to find volunteer students from Doshisha University. They circulated the ad recruiting volunteer students for this project.
As soon as the ad was circulated, I started receiving inquiries from their students. I was excited initially without foreseeing what would have been involved! At our campus, we often discuss manners regarding how students should communicate with us through emails. To my surprise, one after another, I received ill-mannered emails. They addressed me, “Kobayashi-san,” instead of “Kobayashi-sensei.” Sometime they called me “Hisae-san.” I would like to let you know that they are not my peers, but they are college students. Furthermore, I have never seen them. This was their first time contacting me! Some of them did not even say why they contacted me in the first place. They just put their name without providing any proper information.
Although my students always behave appropriately at least when they communicate with me, I was afraid that my students would offend Japanese natives due to their lack of linguistic as well as cultural knowledge. Therefore, I provided the following:
- Please maintain your cordial, polite, friendly tone.
- Please be respectful to fellow students.
- Please be positive when you would like to give feedback.
- Please avoid making personal attacks in response.
- Please avoid using Japanese slang you might have found in Anime, Manga, which may easily cause misunderstanding.
- Slow to anger, abundant in empathy
While I paid my attention to my students’ behavior, I was taken aback by students in Japan! Maybe it is because I live in this country so long and because I do not have enough knowledge of youth culture in Japan.
Suddenly my perspective toward my students has been elevated highly. My students would never behave like them at least toward me. At the same time, I realized that this was one of the negative results of using technologies. Technologies are very convenient as well as beneficial as long as we use them for a right purpose in an appropriate manner. They provide us richer experiences such as my JPN202 Twitter Project. My students can communicate with native speakers of Japanese in the Japanese language while both sides stay where they are. Since I have no control over students in Japan, I decided to use this unpleasant incident to screen the volunteers. I did not respond to ill-mannered emails. Among those students, one contacted me again to see if I had received her email and to ask me how she would start joining the project. I can give credit to her for willingness to contact me again. I explained to her why my response was delayed. After our appropriate email exchanges, she joined the project.
The project has been going smoothly. I have made many observations about my students’ communication skills. I’ve been enjoying monitoring their tweets and I give them feedback every week. Although it is a lot of work for me, it is valuable experience for my students. I’m looking forward to seeing what they say after the project.
Lastly, I found a way to motivate students in Japan to tweet. Look at the image below. This photo tells who communicated with whom and who tweets most. After uploading the photo, the number of tweets from Japan increased. They surely continue to surprise me.