Japanese Plus student heading to Japan for university

Jonah Nguyen-Conyers with Eshita-sensei after sharing the good news!

Jonah Nguyen-Conyers, a senior at DC International, has taken advantage of just about every Japan opportunity that Globalize DC has been able to offer to DC students. He first joined our Japan in DC summer program in 2017. He was a participant in our Blue Star of Life program at the Kennedy Center the following fall, and was included in our February 2018 KAKEHASHI trip to Tokyo and Gifu. He then took the very serious step of applying to our Japanese Plus afterschool program in fall 2018 as a Level 1 Japanese language student. He is currently in our Level 2 class. Jonah is a unique, joyful, and intellectually curious personality, and has been a great member of our Japan-focused community.

So it was with great excitement that we learned the wonderful news that Jonah has been accepted into Temple University, Japan Campus, to start in September 2019. We believe that pursuing his language and culture studies at a Japanese university will open doors to future career and life opportunities that have been percolating in Jonah’s imagination over the last few years with us. We are so excited for Jonah’s accomplishment. This will be the first student from Japanese Plus to make the big choice to pursue his undergraduate education in Japan. A former Japan in DC student, also from DCI, is now in her first year at TUJ.

We asked Jonah to reflect on his Japan journey, and to consider the impact that Globalize DC’s Japan programs have had on his life and future goals. Enjoy!

Ted Adams, Eshita-sensei, Jonah, and Sally at the Blue Star of Life program

Jonah’s Reflection

I think people should invest in Japanese Plus because this is just an awesome opportunity for students like myself to find motivation and a passion for their own success. Japanese Plus was able to guide me in ways that no other programs or organizations have, making sure their students experience enriching and impactful opportunities. All the things we did in the class allowed me to be more focused and passionate about my love and interest for Japan, with echoing effects that transcended the classroom and into my daily life. I really am happy I was given the opportunity to be a part of this program.

I was motivated to sign up for Japan in DC in 2017, because I had some kind of interest in anime, and the summer program was quite close to my house, and I got paid (through the DC Summer Youth Employment Program) to go. After the experience in Japan in DC, I really felt invested in the Japanese culture, and wished to learn more. So the Japanese Plus language class really was the best opportunity for me and my interests. I am beyond happy with my choice to join the afterschool Japanese language program.

The most significant aspects of Japanese Plus for me were the extensive access to very enriching opportunities that revolved around Japanese language and culture, along with great influence on the opportunities available after high school that related to college, giving me a lot of foresight of what opportunities for higher education in Japan could be for me and the other students in the class. This class allowed me to look into my future from a Japanese language student perspective and see a future I never knew I desired.

Japan in DC, Japanese Plus, and the KAKEHASHI trip to Japan were the foundations I needed to understand the way I wished my life would go in. These opportunities that I never thought I would have really just allowed me to see a future that I can work hard and be passionate about. I really just loved the whole journey that I’ve taken to get to where I am now. Without these opportunities I honestly think I would be less passionate and dedicated to my future.

I decided to apply to Temple University, Japan Campus (TUJ), as the process of getting the information from my friend and website and other means were quite efficient and fit my life during the time of applying. I was hoping to apply to other Japanese universities (and still might), but this was one of the schools I was able to apply to through the Common Application, for which I was given a lot of guidance through my school, as it is a nationwide application service. So applying to TUJ at the time was a great choice when considering my own circumstances and the other things in my life.

In the future I wish to go to college, and learn the Japanese language to the extent and fluency of a native speaker, and be able to share and communicate with Japanese people, hoping to understand their lives and culture, something I will be learning forever. I hope to go to college, get a Japanese language degree, be an English teacher or art teacher, and just have the experience of being a part of this vastly different country. After teaching I don’t know what I might do, but I would love to reach back to my Chinese and Vietnamese passions and get more invested in those parts of my identity, maybe through the Peace Corps. As long as I am learning at all points in my life, I will be happy, and that’s what this future can provide for me.

Jonah’s Final Reflection

By Jonah Nguyen-Conyers

With Japanese Plus there have been so many opportunities that came my way and it really showed that many people want to aid me in my journey in being the best global citizen I can be. These opportunities that were given to me really aided in my outlook on life, and allowed me to see a future for myself that falls within my interests. Back when I was in Japan in DC, I was not initially interested in Japanese culture and globalization in general, as I am now, but that has changed for the best and has opened one door after another, while all at the same time really pulling me into the entirety of Japan and its culture.

During Japan in DC I was able to meet many amazing people who had connections to Japan, who were able to share its greatness, always pulling me into the next group discussion, the next outing, and much more. Me showing my interest in Japan during the program, I was able to continue my exploration of Japan and its culture, like the Blue Star of Life event, going to Japan, and then being admitted to this amazing Japanese language class. With this language class I have seen so many doors open for me and it really instilled the idea of people wanting to make opportunities for me and aid me in my future. Through this class I have been able to have so many opportunities to speak with Japanese people and have native people share what Japan really is, I have also been able to speak with colleges that want to provide further educational opportunities for my language learning, and bring the world together.

In all, this program shared the importance of globalization, and the ways the world is connected, and my place within it.

Wowed by Mochi

By Jonah Nguyen-Conyers

During the Opening Ceremony of the Cherry Blossom Festival, I was able to see this new kind of performer, who went by the name Mochi. Mochi is a performer who uses a Chinese Yo-Yo but is also known as a Diabolo, but often has a digital display behind him to enhance his performance. When going into it I was not expecting much, as this was a toy I played with as a kid, but this performer made magic with this “toy” and I was very thrilled through his entire performance. There are many things he did with the Chinese Yo-Yo to wow many people like myself, but that would be hard to put into words. His performance definitely pulled the highest level of excitement and thrill through all the people in the audience with all the tosses and flings. Mochi’s expertise was quite evident with how he handled the Chinese Yo-Yo. We can tell his dedication to this field of entertainment.

Mochi was an amazing performer and deserved all the applause he got that night and more. He was phenomenal.

Katakana vs. Hiragana

By Jonah Nguyen-Conyers

In my Japanese Plus class, I was able to learn both of the alphabets that would allow me to read and decipher a lot of words I was not able to before. However learning katakana was easier than hiragana. When I was first placed in this Japanese class, I would be studying katakana, the alphabet that would be used for English loan words. Learning this first alphabet was easier than anticipated, probably because I was able to find a way to memorize in my own manner that allowed me to efficiently store the characters in my head. Also there was no knowledge of Japanese characters in my head that would confuse me, like when I was studying hiragana.

When it came to learning hiragana it proved to be a more difficult task than I expected, as hiragana was quite easy. However, we were taught in a different manner than before which made it harder for me to study and try to retain the information being shared in class. This first method of teaching that I learned to study with was going in alphabetical order, and when we did not do the same for hiragana, but rather went into it by learning of the more important characters first, this would pose difficulty for my already established study method. Also having the katakana characters in my head made things harder, as I would often confuse the characters from that alphabet with the ones I saw in hiragana. I did not really have a proper approach to study hiragana, and so a lot of the time it fell to the wayside and did not get done, and this would make my process of learning hiragana a lot harder than I expected.

Recognizing the difference helped me progress in hiragana learning, and I currently know all of the characters that are in both hiragana and katakana.

Sharing appreciation

Before winter break, we asked students to take time to express appreciation or recognize the accomplishments of one or two of their Japanese Plus classmates. The results:

Angel: Asa, thanks for always having a smile on your face. It’s really nice talking to you. You make the learning environment brighter.

Maria: I like how Angel tries hard and takes lead of our group. I also appreciate how both Carlos and Luis did the performance the other day alone.

Cyrus: I like hearing Alexx and Theo’s Japanese, because it sounds close to what I’ve heard in media.

Asa: I’m thankful for the encouragement of Lucca for helping me practice and also Che for being the person to help lighten the mood and make me laugh.

Chetachukwu: Carlos is a nice and funny person. It is really helpful and helps me grow educationally. Asa is a funny soul and I like her skirts.

Alexx: I’d like to thank Che for always being on point. She did a lot for our group and was really responsible. I’m glad I have her in my group. I’m also thankful for Gabe who always works really hard. He inspires me to push myself even harder.

Gabe: Jonah, keeping the class always positive and giving heartfelt thanks to visitors. Alexx, for helping a ton in my group, especially during the skit.

Jazmin: I would like to thank Theo and Elena for helping me a lot when learning my katakana. They always make me laugh, and I’m glad to have them in my group.

Katie: I’m really happy that Asa is here with me since she told me about this program and that she’s been with me this whole entire time, even if I am annoying to her. I’m also really happy that Jazmin is here since I can ask her about Japan since she has been there and that she is someone I know who can be there for me.

Jonah: Carlos is very optimistic and a good friend always willing to help. Kenny seems to always want to learn and never bummed and is fun.

Arjernae: I’m proud of Alayshia for being dedicated and not quitting even with people telling her to. I’m proud of Cyrus because he’s one of the few people I see and he acknowledges me when I come to class. Also he’s becoming more open and not as shy as he was in the beginning.

Theo: Jazmin is a very hard worker and I really respect her drive. Alexx has a strong grasp on the language and I find her very impressive in general.

What are you most proud of?

Before winter break, we asked our Japanese Plus students to reflect on their time in the program so far, and to share what they felt most proud of. Here are they answers:

Angel: I’m proud of the onigiri that I made and improving in katakana.

Maria: I am most proud of the self-introductions we have learned.

Cyrus: I guess just being able to talk to new people and not be a complete mess.

Asa: I’m most proud of me mastering katakana but mostly gaining more courage to speak out and meet new people.

Che: The fact that I memorized all my katakana. I know most of my combinations.

Alexx: I’m most proud of my speaking abilities in terms of public speaking. I’m not very good at speaking loud and clear, so I’ve been really happy with how far I’ve come.

Gabe: I went from knowing one Japanese word to being able to introduce myself and knowing katakana.

Jazmin: I’m most proud of my speaking skills, because I’ve improved a lot since the last time Eshita sensei taught me some phrases when I was in “Japan in DC.”

Katie: I’m really proud that we finished learning katakana and mastering it. I really thought it would take a long time to learn.

Jonah: Learning katakana and meeting with new people.

Arjernae: Learning basic Japanese is what I am most proud of (katakana, introduction, writing).

Theo: Probably the feeling of mastery over a different alphabetical system to the point that I recognize meaning relatively quickly.

Chinese and Japanese

By Jonah Nguyen-Conyers

For as long as I can remember, learning Chinese has been a great love of mine. My involvement with Mandarin and Chinese culture has afforded me opportunities to explore more of the world. My Mandarin Chinese language journey helped me discover the enjoyment of learning a foreign language and the appreciation of the benefits of being able to converse in a language shared by 1.3 billion people. When I was first introduced to Chinese in the 1st grade, it was extremely difficult in the early years. Despite the initial hardship of learning such a complicated language, I was motivated to continue my studies out of a sincere desire to connect with people from the other side of the world in their own language!

The years devoted to learning Chinese really helped me find my love for languages and cultures, and would ultimately lead me to embrace the Japanese language and culture. As I have grown up with the skills to learn difficult languages, I find that my Japanese class has been easier than my Chinese classes. Each and every time I go to Japanese class, I am excited and ready to learn, knowing that I am building the language skills needed to connect to a whole nation of people who speak Japanese.

Although Japanese and Chinese are completely unique languages, there are some important similarities between the two that make studying a completely new language like Japanese a lot more manageable. Both languages rely on the memorizations of many characters, a skill that I have developed from my background in Chinese. The use of Kanji characters or Chinese characters would give me a head start, and provide me the opportunity to bridge my previous language knowledge with a new language that I embrace with eagerness. What I’ve learned about these Kanji characters are that they are written the same and have the same meaning most of the time, however are spoken differently to fit alongside the other alphabet pronunciation. I was intimidated with the nearly hundred characters that I would have to remember. It seemed intimidating as I knew that English only has twenty-six letters and, therefore, estimated it would be four times harder than English. Chinese gave me the ability to memorize characters and that skill really helped me in more ways than I had not anticipated.

My Japanese Plus class is taught in a different manner than what I am used to. The classroom environment seems more friendly and less pressure-filled than my Chinese classes. At Yu Ying and DCI, the Chinese language is taught in an immersion model where they exclusively speak only Chinese. Because my Japanese class is not conducted in an immersion model, my Japanese class environment is allowing the students to learn in a more stress-free manner as the teacher makes sure that studies are not so intensive and uses both English and Japanese in classroom instruction. Learning Japanese this way makes it more accessible and allows the students to build up their foundational language basics so that we can progress together as a class.