Aitana Camponovo

School: Washington Latin

Grade: 10

Zodiac sign: Aries/Year of the Boar (2007)

Favorite food: One of my favorite parts of Japanese culture is its food: if I was trapped on an island and could only eat one thing for the rest of my life, it would be sushi. The simpler the better, in fact, sashimi, a dish which simply consists of sliced raw fish, is my favorite food. My favorite type of fish for sushi is toro, which is the fatty part of the tuna fish’s belly. 

An issue I care deeply about: Free and accessible education for all students is an important issue to me. All students should have the same opportunities for their education as others, regardless of their background. This is why I am proud to be part of a program like Japanese Plus whose mission is to bring Japanese to students all over the city public school students in DC, regardless of their backgrounds at no cost. 

Hobbies: I love learning languages, running cross country, reading, and creating music. I am a very extraverted and energetic person who likes to keep herself busy, whether it be filming movies with friends or getting up early in the morning to make time to practice my instrument. I like to think of myself as someone more creative than technical, which is why I enjoy languages and writing so much: I grew up speaking both English and Spanish because my mother is an immigrant from Spain, studied Latin at school since I was 10 years old, and self-taught myself French and Japanese for fun. It is exciting to watch myself grow and discover my identity through my hobbies. 

Aspirations: I want to learn as much about the world as possible, whether it be through traveling, school, reading, or meeting new people. I am a very ambitious and curious person who seeks to learn new things in everything I do, so I know when I grow older I want to travel the world and find a career that will always keep me excited for the very next thing. 

Goals for this program: I have been self-studying Japanese since I was 12 years old. The very beginning of my journey began in 2019 in seventh grade when I started going to a Japanese class once a week, but after only a month of starting I had to stop when COVID got in the way. However, that did not stop me. I decided I wanted to self-study Japanese, simply as an effort to keep me busy since we were all stuck at home in the midst of a pandemic. I started by teaching myself all three alphabets of Japanese, including how to read and write more than 2,000 Chinese kanji characters. Next, I studied grammar and sentence structure from a textbook until I felt I had a solid foundation of the language. From there, I invested almost three to four hours a day everyday to completely immerse myself in the language; I watched Japanese movies with no subtitles, listened to podcasts, NHK news broadcasts, read short novels, studied twenty five new words a day, and practiced writing a diary entry in Japanese every night. Additionally, twice a week, an hour a session, I made it a commitment to practice conversation with a Japanese tutor, a habit I have continued to maintain even three years later. Mastering Japanese has always been a very important commitment of mine, and although I do not have nearly as much time today as I used to during quarantine, I still have never stopped. Thanks to my consistent effort these last few years, I am proud to say I am conversationally fluent in Japanese and at a high intermediate level of reading and writing. I enjoy being a teacher’s assistant in Japanese Plus because it feels gratifying to help others, especially for a language I am so fond of. This year I am looking forward to creating new bonds and seeing my classmates grow.