The person being featured is Kirsten M. Kirsten is from Charlottesville, VA and has lived there her entire life with her two cats and dog. Kristen is a Caucasian female with brown hair and green eyes. Her family background is Dutch-Irish. English is her first language, but she is also Japanese. Kirsten is a teacher with the Albemarle County School Board and has been teaching high school English for seven years. Interview Questions (Me) Besides English, what other languages do you speak? Which one was the hardest to learn? (Kirsten) I am fluent in Spanish and Japanese.
Japanese was the hardest, for me, to learn. The alphabet threw me off at first. I used the tried and true method of making flashcards to practice learning it. (Me) How long have you been speaking Spanish and Japanese? (Kirsten) I’ve been speaking Spanish since eighth grade, so it’s been at least twenty years. I’ve only been speaking Japanese for about fifteen years. I took Japanese at UVA and was so fascinated with the language that I moved to Japan to teach English, which I did for two years. (Me) I remember you telling me about that. Was it a culture shock for you? What was your first impression? (Kirsten) I was nervous.
Tokyo is overwhelming, but exciting. When I first arrived, my Japanese was nowhere near where it should’ve been. The dialect I was using was all over the place. Once I got acclimated, my life was little easier. Now, to go back to the culture shock part of your question. I didn’t know anyone when I first arrived. I was visiting someone else’s country and was completely out of my element. Thankfully, some of the locals were very helpful and patient with me, while I was butchering their language. They helped me with my pronunciation and my dialect. I was eternally grateful for them. I wish Americans could be more like that with immigrants here. Just being patient and helping out another human enjoy your home country.
Living in Japan really opened my eyes and helped me embrace diversity. (Me) What are the differences in teaching English here and teaching in English in Japan? (Kirsten) Teaching English to a child who already knows the language is different than teaching a child whose first language is not English. Most children know the alphabet before starting school here in the U.S., but when I taught English over there, they don’t know the English alphabet. Over here most people take a foreign language in middle school and high school, but in Japan, these children are not only learning how to read and write in their own language, but they’re also learning how to do the same stuff in English. It’s basically what ESL teachers do here in the U.S. (Me) That’s all I have today. Thanks for taking time out of your schedule to do this interview.
Anything else you would like to add? (Kirsten) To fully embrace diversity, you need to go out and experience it as much as you can. Reflection The interview with Kirsten M. provided an understanding to what it is like to be in a fish out of water scenario. Kirsten went from the small southern town Charlottesville, VA and jumped right into the culture shock of big city Tokyo. Kirsten’s experience teaching English in a foreign land, taught her that diversity is something to embrace and something not to push away. Her experience brings awareness to the situation facing immigrants in the U.S. In the beginning, she had trouble with communicating with the locals until a group of people helped her with the language and navigating the area. In the U.S., immigrants are usually talked down to and not treated with the same hospitality as she was given in Japan.
Teachers in the U.S. face that issue of teaching children whose first language is not English. An aspiring educator would want to be patient with those types of students and try to understand what is easy for some, may be difficult for others. The interview with Kirsten is a great example of what happens when you embrace diversity and it allowed her walk in someone else’s shoes. If she would have stayed in her comfort zone, she might not have gotten a chance to fully experience and embrace diversity. For that chance, she will be eternally grateful.