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Diversity Statement for Graduate School, Japanese

I feel very strongly that I have a lot to offer your program if you were to hire me as a Lecturer in the Japanese Language, particularly because of my professional experience. I hold an M.A. in Applied Linguistics from XXXX University and an undergraduate degree from XXXX University of Education in the Department of Education. My major was Teaching Japanese as a Foreign Language.

While I was studying at XXXX University of Education, I taught various Japanese language classes offered at my university for Japanese-Brazilian workers and their children. Since the university is located near the headquarters of Toyota and its car factories, there are huge number of Japanese-Brazilian workers and their families living in the area. Most of these workers came to Japan with very limited Japanese language skills. Much of the problem has to do with the fact that once they come to Japan, they are too busy to study Japanese at language schools or unable to afford the tuition. Therefore, the only language education that was available to them was the university’s free classes, taught by college student volunteers like myself. 

I also volunteered at an elementary school, which also has many Japanese-Brazilian children who do not understand hardly any Japanese. Until our university intervened with this program, an increasing number of Japanese-Brazilian children were simply ignored in the school system, rather than receiving the remedial education that they needed in Japanese. The problem is that normal teachers are not given any special training in how to teach non-native speakers of Japanese, so they did not really know how to help these students. Without our program, these children would be extremely disadvantaged in Japanese society, not as a result of any intellectual disadvantages but simply the failure of the educational system to effectively compensate for their special language needs, in addition to cultural differences.  The sense of not being assimilated at school may affect their future by discouraging them from becoming active, successful members of the community and society.  Although “globalization” and “internationalization” have become very familiar words in Japan, diversity and multiculturalism are not yet fully supported or appreciated.  Language education can play a very important role in helping people from different cultures able to communicate and connect to each other. Thus, I think it is especially important for a Japanese educator in this field to be particularly responsible for fostering appreciation for diversity.

I grew up in the midst of an ethnic discrimination of which I was only vaguely aware. Close to my hometown in Japan, there is an area that used to be called the “Buraku” (discriminated community). I was born after such discrimination was officially abolished and grew up not knowing much about this aspect of our history. Many of my good friends are from that area, however; so, it was a huge shock to me when my grandfather acted prejudiced towards some of my friends.

Thus, at an early age, I learned that I was in a majority at home.  However, once I stepped outside of Japan, all of sudden I have become a minority.  Like the Japanese-Brazilian workers, I  now needed to overcome language and cultural barriers myself in order to communicate effectively with people around me, make friends,  and to be professionally effective at work. I constantly analyze what I need to improve on in the context of who I am talking to, where, and why, using different expressions and speech styles effectively to become a successfully communicator.  Therefore, it is crucial for me as a teacher to understand the students’ goals, needs and possible contexts where the conversations most likely happen.  This is especially important because the politeness level of speech is greatly enhanced and valued in Japanese.

My experiences so far have made me a fair, compassionate teacher who strives to understand each student’s strengths and weaknesses and find the pedagogical approach that best suits their needs and goals.  I hope that by enhancing the Japanese language skills of my students, I will be helping them to achieve their future goals and dreams, and compete more effectively in our new global community.

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