Japanese coaching and Sweden
You may wonder what comes after the title: “I am a Japanese coach and…?” I am Kiyo, and I am a Japanese coach at WE Languages. A coach is more than just a Japanese language teacher, I am the one who can guide you in culture and communication style, not just Japanese vocabulary and grammar!
Now, let me answer, what comes after “I am a Japanese coach and…!” Actually, I am a student as well! So, in this coach blog, I will share my experience as a language coach and language learner living in a small town in Sweden.
I use ‘coach’ instead of ‘teacher’ because I consider myself more of a coach that is equal to her pupils. In fact, I have learned a lot of things that are really eye-opening from my 生徒さん through lessons. I can’t come up with a better word for a student. So I will mix students and 生徒(せいと)さん in this blog. Focus on student’s needs is a key concept at We Languages.
Word 生徒(せいと)さん is pronounced as “seito-san”, and expresses more respect and sense of closeness compare to the word “学生” (gakusei) in Japan. Japanese language has many unique words which have connotations of increasing or decreasing distance.
Life in Sweden
I live in a small town called Lerum which is located near Gothenburg.
Have you heard of Gothenburg? It is the second largest city in Sweden and is famous for its Volvo car factory.
Here in Lerum we don’t have big shopping malls and fancy bars. Instead we have a great access to nature! I live next to a forest, so it takes just a minute to reach nature. Here I can see roe deer walking just in front of my house! There are also two lakes nearby. While I pass it by I feel happy and alive.
As I already mentioned I am also a student. I study Swedish every day at the language school “SFI” which is an abbreviation for “Svenska för invandrare” (“Swedish for immigrants”). SFI is a free language school for immigrants run by the state of Sweden.
Snow-covered woods in Sweden near the house of our Japanese coach
Love and Sweden
Before I studied at Gothenburg University as an exchange student. There I fell in love with my future husband and Sweden. That’s why now I live here with my Swedish-Hungarian husband who was born and raised in Sweden.
If you fall in love with someone who speaks a different language, will you study his/her language? My answer is absolutely YES! And I realised that some languages have very special beautiful expressions which cannot be translated into other languages.
It may be harder to study a new language as an adult, but I know it is very important to get to know my husband at the deepest point. Ultimately I want to master both: Swedish and Hungarian, but firstly I focus on Swedish.
Daily life of Japanese coach in Sweden
I start my day with a light breakfast of sandwich which is typical for Sweden, after that I am ready for Japanese lessons with my 生徒さん.
After lunch I learn Swedish until three o’clock and then take a walk in the woods. This is a time for me to think about cultures and languages.
I think about Swedish or Japanese grammar, expressions or just something that pops up in my mind. After I take a walk I enjoy some coffee and sweets. We call it “fika” in Swedish. After fika, I prepare for the next day’s lessons and also study Swedish by myself. I never skip my homework!
Traditional Swedish sweet called Semla. Made by our Japanese teacher
Language class online or at school?
I take online classes now due to the pandemic, so I cannot meet my classmates face to face. It is a bit sad as I want to practice Swedish offline communicating with my teachers and classmates. However, I believe that online lessons are useful for business people or those with tight schedules.
Having language classes online I can save my time to prepare the materials and also have more free time. So if you are a busy person and would like to try learning Japanese I definitely recommend you to do it online! It will save you time and money.
My language learning experience helping my students
Being a language learner myself, I do know the difficulties my students learning Japanese may encounter. For example, how hard it is to distinguish similar sounds. I myself struggle to remember new words.
As a language learner have you had similar problems?
To tackle these difficulties I try to use as many words as I can and see if I can remember them correctly when I speak Swedish. It is trial and error, so I make the same mistakes such as wrong pronunciation again and again, then maybe after four times, I would be able to say it correctly. I think it is important to try out as much as you can without hesitation so you can remember the new vocabulary from your own experience and mistakes.
Do you have any friends or family that speak the language you are studying or you are interested in? To me, I feel odd practicing language with my Swedish friends. I prioritize having fun with them because they are my friends. But instead, I can concentrate on practicing Swedish with my teachers.
Three principles to support my students
Do you remember the word 生徒さん? 生徒(せいと)さん is pronounced as “seito-san”. I really enjoy using this because as a coach, I want to get closer to my pupils and show them a level of respect. It is part of my personality.
First, I repeat the same expressions many times during the class, so that my 生徒さん can become familiar with the new Japanese expressions. Also, it is important for learners to know what situation the expressions are used in, so I also explain that and we are trying to simulate it.
Secondly, I encourage asking questions after we cover new Japanese grammar or expressions. I think this can help 生徒さん to resolve their doubts and increase curiosity. I don’t like when Japanese or other teachers talk too much so that students cannot even ask questions freely.
Lastly, I provide them homework before the next lesson.
Do you like doing homework? When I was an elementary school student, I hated homework. I wanted to play with my friends more, so I thought homework was a burden. However, when I started learning Swedish by myself I completely reconsidered my attitude towards homework. I found that especially language learning needs patience and effort to master various things, such as grammar, expressions and vocabulary. Homework helps you to recall class materials and remember it by practicing patterns.
I studied Swedish alone at first, so I had to make a study plan and check my progress by myself. It was fine but sometimes I had to convince myself to study and it was not easy. Now as you know, I study Swedish at SFI with teachers. Therefore I can get their support all the time, and they made a study plan for me. From my experience I think it is encouraging and motivating to have someone who checks your progress through homework and guides you toward your Japanese study plan, this is exactly what we do in We Languages.
Japanese textbook to learn Swedish and Swedish textbook used by our Japanese teacher
Three expressions I cannot translate into other languages
As I mentioned before, I realised there are very special beautiful expressions which cannot be translated into other languages.
Here I would like to share these three expressions from Japanese, Swedish and English.
If you have any good suggestions for a translation, please let me know!
「お疲れ様です。」(おつかれさまです。) in Japanese
This expression is pronounced as “otsukare sama desu.”
For adults, we say this to coworkers who finish their job on that day, or after we finish sports activities. For children and youth, we say 「お疲れ様! 」(otsukaresama) after school or club activities. With this expression, you can show your appreciation toward other members, and it is like patting others on the back for their good work.
Did you notice that there is a difference between the two forms? We have casual and polite forms in Japanese, so people abbreviate or change expressions depending on who they are talking to.
Isn’t it interesting? I hope you use 「お疲れ様です。」 (otsukaresamadesu) and 「お疲れ様！」 (otsukaresama) with Japanese speakers. I am sure they will respond positively and appreciate your Japanese skills.
I know the expression “Good job!” in English and a very similar expression “Bra jobbat!” in Swedish, still I cannot say that「お疲れ様です。」and 「お疲れ様！」 are used in the same way.
“Lagom” in Swedish
Everybody uses word “Lagom” when they feel something is quite ok. For example you have dinner with your friends, and feel full, not too full. Then you are lagom, full. You can also use this phrase when you talk about your life. If you say your work life balance is lagom, it says that “it’s quite normal”. Not too little, and not too much.
It can be translated into English like these according to my husband, moderate or the right amount.
Do you think “lagom” can be translated into your mother tongue?
This is the fascinating point of learning a new language I think. “Lagom” is a very useful word when people want to express that something is at the preferred or right level. From cultural point of view it shows Swedish people as someone who prefer not to be greedy and know how stay happy by themselves.
“You made my day!”
Have you used this powerful and passionate expression in your life?
If you ask me, I say YES! I cannot live without this energetic phrase. When someone helps me when I am in trouble, I always say this. Other times, I use this phrase when someone does something that makes me glad and the whole day becomes wonderful!
You do not say “thank you” directly, but if you say “you made my day”, it means you appreciate and thank the person very much.
Surprisingly I have not encountered similar phrases in Sweden or Japanese. Of course both Swedish and Japanese have various ways to tell thank you, but still this energetic phrase cannot be found in these two languages.
When comparing and distinguishing the difference between expressions, we can grasp the mindset of the languages and culture involved.
Traditional Japanese New Year’s dish, osechi. Made by our Japanese teacher
Message to future students or 生徒さん
Thank you for reading my blog at WE Languages!
Japanese teacher Kiyo in the woods of Sweden
I hope you enjoyed reading my article. WE Languages has wonderful coaches with different personalities and experiences so you definitely can find someone who will share your interests and will guide you confidently towards your Japanese study goals.
Please ask yourself: what makes you happy? What makes you want to study Japanese?
As a brief introduction, I am fond of sharing the Japanese language to others.
One of my 生徒さん got an ideal job where she uses Japanese and it made me absolutely happy. It literally made my day! I supported her by checking her Japanese and preparing her for an interview in Japanese.
I have studied English, Swedish and Hungarian to know the cultures well and live in Sweden.
It is very challenging to learn foreign languages, but it is exciting when you can communicate in the languages!
Finally, I would like to share my coaching experience a little bit more. I am 26 years old, and still learning life. At the same time, I am a good listener and also an energetic coach as you can see me on the picture in the snowy woods.
I got two qualifications, the first one I got at university to teach Japanese to foreigners and the second one is a super-J Coach qualification to coach foreigners who are studying Japanese – in English.
Regarding my teaching experience, I taught English and Japanese to elementary school and junior high school students. I also have taught Japanese online for 10 months.
I am looking forward to seeing you as my 生徒さん and studying Japanese online together! ♪
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