Minako started JAPANEASY by her students’ popular request since she was teaching Japanese individually in Melbourne. Now, in 2010, there are 10 Japanese teachers working with her and more than 200 students learning in JAPANEASY. While it is expanding quickly, it is still well known for the friendly relationships between student and teacher that have created its warm welcoming atmosphere.
— What was the reason you started JAPANEASY?
When I was teaching Japanese in Melbourne by myself before establishing JAPANEASY, I received lots of requests from students to make a special Japanese school. So one day I decided – “Ok, let’s do it!” – Then they helped me a lot to form this great school.
— How many students did you have then?
I had about 50 private students. Everyone was so great and helpful – making walls (!), painting and drawing them, making signs, even cleaning. Even the name of “JAPANEASY” was a group decision.
— I have heard that you have regular events…?
Yes, 2nd and 4th Wednesdays monthly, we have language exchange club “NIHON MURA (Japanese Village)”. Students came to me with requests like: “We use Japanese in classrooms but have no opportunity to speak it outside of classrooms!”. “Okay, then let’s create that opportunity!”, so we started. Also there is “BUNKA MURA(culture village)” on 1st and 3rd Wednesdays to learn Japanese culture such as calligraphy, in addition, we generally hold other events relating Japan in Melbourne occasionally.
— How many people are coming for the “NIHON MURA(Japanese Village)” language exchange club?
About 50 people come each time, from regulars to one-time visitors, Japanese and English speakers alike. There are two separate rooms – study room and relax room -, “micchiri” room is for people who want to exchange language seriously and “mattari” room is more relax and making friends. This way it is easy to join even without speaking much Japanese (or English!).
— How do you teach Japanese in classes?
We teach Japanese in Japanese – which is the most effective and interesting way to learn! Doing so switches your brain into Japanese-mode in the classroom, helping to reinforce new words and expressions. This method will help quickly build your confidence in Japanese. Students learn to use Japanese in a variety of real-life situations. This “direct method” also applies to students who don’t speak English!
— What was the reason to start “Japanese teacher training course” in Melbourne?
As JAPANEASY expanded, naturally we needed more staff. When recruiting, I receive lots of promising CVs, but very few applicants have formal training. Being a Japanese speaker does not automatically qualify you to teach the language, and I like to maintain a high standard of teaching. Among these promising applicants, some people ask me to train them, and I am glad to be able to help those passionate people. It has been a long term aspiration to establish such a course, and now it is time to act one of my dreams.
— What do you think the good things are after you became a Japanese teacher?
First is the opportunity to meet great people, like my students and staff at JAPANEASY. Second is to hear warm words from everyone – “So happy to have met you and JAPANEASY”, “I really look forward to coming to JAPANEASY every time I have a lesson” etc. Thirdly, I feel I have succeeded in making my dream school – a school that is like a big family. Students often say to me “Arigato Minako, I made lots of friends after I started learning Japanese here.” Also, it just makes me happy to be surrounded by happy faces. That’s something I want to keep forever.
Look at their smile! It is the end of semester party at Ibuki Restaurant.