Comments from coursework students: postgraduate/graduate

Here are comments from some of our postgraduate students:

Sarah Pasfield-Neofitou

Ph.D. (current)

I began my doctorate candidature in 2007 after completing a BA Languages (Honours) at Monash University, majoring in Japanese and Linguistics. I now work part time at Monash, and have taught Japanese level 1-2 and Japanese applied linguistics, and am a full-time PhD student.

I first came to Monash as an undergraduate after completing a year-long exchange in Japan. Monash offered the opportunity to continue my language study at a level that was appropriate, and with a variety of interesting and engaging complementary studies subjects. I became interested in pursuing research after I had the chance to complete a number of small sociolinguistic research projects that sparked my interest in investigating language in use.

Throughout my undergraduate study at Monash, I kept in contact with friends in Japan using computer-mediated communication (CMC) such as chat and email. So when it came to choosing a topic for my honours thesis, it was only natural that I investigate how other students like myself were maintaining or developing links with native speakers of Japanese, using information communication technologies such as chat outside the classroom. Furthermore, I wanted to know what effect this communication had on their language acquisition.

The support I received in completing this project was fantastic, both in terms of my supervision from the Japanese and Linguistics departments, and the coursework subjects I undertook that prepared me for independent research. I found the small group discussion format of “Research Methodology in Applied Linguistics” both challenging and rewarding, as it made me articulate my own ideas as well as consider those of others. Each week, stimulating questions were provided that helped to focus and guide my reading and thinking. Thanks to this subject, I also read more widely that I would have for my own research, and gained familiarity with a greater number of theoretical frameworks and methods than I would have otherwise.

I completed my honours thesis “Intercultural Internet chat between learners of Japanese and English in informal contexts“ in 2006. However, during the course of researching learners’ use of chat, I found myself asking more questions related to learners’ use of other types of communication technologies. Most participants were engaging in more than one conversation or interaction at any given time, and I wanted to explore this bigger picture of learners’ Internet communication, beyond the chat window.

Over the past couple of years, I have enjoyed interviewing learners of Japanese and hearing their stories of language use online, as well as collecting a corpus of their communication with native speakers of Japanese. Students are engaging in highly sophisticated forms of language management on the Internet, managing not only different languages but different registers within languages, and coping with the challenges of communicating via a new medium. The range of activities that learners use their second or subsequent language in is phenomenal – downloading, chatting with friends, online shopping, emailing colleagues, posting blogs, and even coordinating team battles in online games. I believe it is important that teachers and researchers have a better understanding of learners’ out-of-classroom online practices, so that we can better assess their needs, and the effect of CMC on language acquisition.

Since beginning my PhD research at Monash, I have had a number of opportunities to attend conferences, in Melbourne, interstate, and even overseas, generously supported by a Monash postgraduate travel grant. Participating in panels and group research with other Monash staff and students has also been very rewarding. I was also able to undertake a short period of fieldwork in Japan where I could meet some of the Japanese contacts of my Australian participants, and get a better idea of the current technological gap between Japan and Australia.

Although undertaking such a large and lengthy project has seemed daunting at times, I have been consistently impressed with the great range and scope of seminars, workshops and other support provided for postgraduates at Monash. The supervision I have received has been encouraging and constructively critical in the right doses. Of course, the most rewarding experience for me so far has been talking to students who wanted their voices to be heard by researchers and teachers. As one learner commented at the end of an interview, “It’s been really fun doing this, I always wanted someone to talk to about this stuff”.

Mari Morofushi

Master of Applied Japanese Linguistics, completed end 2008

I am currently working for Monash, teaching at beginners and upper intermediate levels in Japanese language. I commenced my Master in Applied Japanese Linguistics course in Semester 2 in 2007. I was also able to undertake an internship in order to expand my knowledge of Japanese language education at a tertiary level.

This Master course was certainly stimulating and supportive. The content of the units I took covered a range of important modules for language educators. For example, ‘Teaching and Learning Asian languages’ expanded my knowledge from basic pedagogy to current teaching situations and issues. ‘Second Language Acquisition’ offered valuable aspects of learning and teaching languages from various viewpoints, such as educators, learners, and societies. ‘Japanese Sociolinguistics’ deepened my understanding of teaching in terms of academic language, computer use in language education, and students’ experience in study abroad programs in which I have always been interested. These studies form the background and the foundation of my teaching philosophy.

The subjects that I studied also provided me with an interesting topic for my 12-point project. This project, which focused upon the communities in which Australian university students participated during their study abroad program in Japan, allowed me to understand the students’ experiences and discover important issues that the students faced. Since the current situation when the Japanese government agreed to the ‘Plan to Accept 300,000 Foreign Students’ and accepted a large number of foreign nurses and welfare workers, there will inevitably be more communities in which foreigners participate, and I believe a study of these communities to be important.

I have to admit that throughout the course the assignments were challenging. However, with lots of assistance from lecturers and the English Learning Support unit in Arts, I gained satisfactory results for all subjects. The most important thing is that I feel much more confident in writing and speaking in English, which is essential for my career.

I think this Masters course would be most valuable and useful for any student with an interest in teaching languages and Japanese studies. The course will lead a student to a deeper level of language study and a possible career in language teaching.

Chris Burgess

Ph.D. (in Japanese Studies) 2004

I remember clearly the day I arrived in Melbourne, a pleasantly warm day in April contrasting with the cool weather I had left behind in Japan; I recall thinking how the timing meant that I would completely miss a summer of my life. I also remember the frustration at not having any change for the coke machine, the rush to find an adapter for my computer notebook in the airport shops, and mild feelings of panic at not being able to find the Monash International driver who was supposed to pick me up (despite the tiny International Terminal).

It took a while to settle in – newcomers be warned that there’s not much in or around Clayton (Australia is a car society), that something will always go wrong when setting up bank accounts and E-mail, and that you need to put at least three weeks aside for house-hunting (no family accommodation!) – but six months on I’m very happy here.

As a British guy who spent the last seven years in Japan and came to Monash to get a Ph.D. (Japanese studies), I can honestly say it was a wise choice to come here. As a post-grad, you certainly need the discipline to work independently and the relationship with your supervisor is absolutely crucial, but there is the freedom to audit classes across a number of departments and to work in a library which must be one of the best in the world.

For my particular field, there is also the added bonus of living in a genuinely multicultural state where Asian languages are taught in schools from an early age: perhaps that is one of the reasons why the School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics here at Monash is one of the most renown and intellectually alive in Australia.

Finally, for those of you coming with families, I might add that Australia is an easy place to live, relaxed, safe, and (especially children) friendly: indeed, my (Japanese) wife likes it so much she refuses to go back to Japan!

Thinking back to that day in April when I arrived tired and sweaty at Melbourne airport, grumbling about missing a summer, the past does indeed seem like a foreign country – which indeed it was at the time! But for those of you who are serious, motivated, and ambitious, the largest university in the Southern Hemisphere offers every opportunity to earn an internationally regarded qualification that may take you, personally or career-wise, to the next level.

Tomiko Kato

Master of Applied Japanese Linguistics (2003)

I chose Monash University because Japanese Language education was flourishing in Australia more than anywhere else in the world, and many people had told me that Monash University was the best place in Australia to study the Japanese applied Japanese linguistics.

Post-graduate study was very hard indeed. Sometimes I can’t even express my own thoughts very well in writing in Japanese, my mother tongue, so academic writing in English took an enormous amount of time. I often thought that I would crack under the stress.

Nevertheless, the classes at Monash were as outstanding as they were reputed to be. The teachers also guided me very courteously. I will treasure the knowledge I gained at Monash all my life.

At present I am teaching at National University of Singapore. I was already teaching Japanese in Singapore , but having completed a Master’s at Monash I have gained confidence, and felt able to do more. I hope that the number of students studying at Monash University continues to increase, and that these graduates spread their wings throughout the world.

Sachiko Yasuda

Master of Arts (by research and coursework) (2003)

I completed my degree in Applied Japanese Linguistics in 2003, and I’m currently teaching in the TESOL program of Waseda University in Japan . Thinking back to the days when I started studying in the new academic environment which was different in many respects from the way I had studied in my home country, I confronted various kinds of problems, such as participation in discussion, writing academic papers, reading disciplinary texts and doing presentations. Most of these activities were totally new to me and thus at the initial stage I struggled with dealing with assigned academic tasks. The insightful and thorough support of teachers, however, helped me greatly so that I gradually came to realise how to manage. I gained knowledge of theories of language learning and teaching as well as advanced skills in conducting research, which was what I had aimed to achieve in order to be a skilled researcher. I attribute what I am to everything I experienced at Monash and everything I learned from teachers at Monash.

The Applied Japanese Linguistics course provides an excellent curriculum for prospective researchers who specialise not only in Japanese but other language areas, such as TESOL. The Research Methodology class that I took up in the first year helped me to create a firm basis for conducting research. I realised through this class how very little I knew about research methodology, despite the fact that I had completed a Masters thesis at a Japanese university before going to Monash. The lecturer who was in charge of the methodology class and who also supervised my thesis, taught me important procedures relating to research papers, for example, how to write a literature review and a research proposal, how to collect data, and how to analyse data on the basis of a theoretical framework. Following these procedures in a consistent way, I planned a research project, undertook a review of previous literature, completed the fieldwork, analysed the data and wrote up my thesis. I also had a paper accepted on this research topic for publication in an international journal. Not only completing my MA thesis but also achieving a publication was an amazing experience for me, given that one year earlier, I had been a total novice researcher.

Another distinctive feature of the Applied Japanese Linguistics course is that there are numerous opportunities for students to lead a seminar on their own research. During the process of my thesis completion, I had many chances to speak about my own research. Every time I carried out the presentation, the audience, including not only students but teachers or experts provided me with valuable comments, and also gave me important points that I had not noticed on my own. All this helped me to complete and expand my research in greater depth. A number of seminars I experienced at Monash also helped me to make a good presentation and it gave me practice in speaking in front of an audience. I appreciated those opportunities for familiarizing myself with public speaking and for getting myself to look at my own research from an objective point of view through crucial feedback from the audience.

My research interest focuses upon overseas students’ learning strategies in their new academic community, in particular, their ESL academic writing processes. My current job at Waseda University is, fortunately, where I could utilise all the academic experiences I had at Monash to the full. The School of International Liberal Studies (an undergraduate program that is taught in English) where I am now working features a curriculum which prepares Japanese students to go overseas by improving their proficiency in language as well as by recognising diversity throughout the world. I always get a great sense of satisfaction from helping students who are preparing for studying abroad in the same way as I myself did a few years ago. As my research focus is ESL writing, I am mainly in charge of helping the students with their academic writing. There exists a writing centre in the School, which is actually the first university-affiliated institution at a Japanese university. This writing centre exists to assist students with their academic writing across the disciplines, as most of them have had very limited previous experience of academic writing in English. In addition to the tutorials that comprise the bulk of the work, the writing centre strives to share expertise and ideas with faculty staff who are interested in teaching writing and designing writing assignments. With my experience at Monash, I am committed to contributing to the development of the writing centre in conjunction with other staff, and I would like to continually pursue ways of improving my teaching skills as well as expanding my own research.

As I mentioned above, the Applied Japanese Linguistics course offers a superb and excellent education. It is an extremely useful course, especially for those who would like to learn fundamental research methodology and to become a skilled researcher. I believe that future participants’ choice of Monash Applied Japanese Linguistics course would be a good decision for their long-term career goal and that their experiences at Monash will lead them to the next step.

Satoko Thomas

Master of Applied Japanese Linguistics (2003)

My name is Satoko Thomas. I completed the Graduate Diploma course in 1999 and have completed my MA in Applied Japanese Linguistics, part-time.

It was back in 1985 when I obtained a Diploma in Education at Melbourne University and started teaching Japanese at Methodist Ladies’ College. I will be leaving the present part-time employment at Mentone Girls’ Grammar School in 2000 and will start teaching full-time at Salesian College in 2001. Teaching Japanese has been my major interest as well as my occupation.

I have always wanted to go back to study at the postgraduate level, but was not sure whether I would be able to cope with the linguistic level required for the course. So I was thrilled when I finally enrolled myself at Monash University for the postgraduate course in Applied Japanese Linguistics and received my first grade of HD in 1998, and, in addition, received a scholarship from the Melbourne Centre of Japanese Language Education for Semester 1, 2000.

The first subject I studied was ‘Introduction to Teaching Japanese as a Foreign Language’, taught by Robyn Spence-Brown. I chose this subject because I thought, at the time, that it would be the least demanding subject, but on the contrary, it turned out to be very challenging in every respect. I realized how very little I knew about teaching Japanese and learned far more than I ever expected. This was also my first experience taking an essay-type examination, writing a literature review and a research proposal, and familiarising myself with all the complex terminology necessary for teaching and learning a language.

My second subject was ‘Japanese Discourse Acquisition’ taught by Yukiko Hatasa, in which we studied a large range of work by many researchers both in Australia and other countries. It demanded highly cognitive exercises and trained me to work systematically and independently. The skills that I gained in the first subject assisted me a great deal in managing the requirements.

The third subject, ‘Research Design in Applied Linguistics’ was also very challenging, as it was offered in the linguistic department and the lecturers assumed that we possessed some knowledge of English dialects. I struggled through with a bit of frustration but appreciated the outcome after much hard work. The lecturers and students were friendly.

I enjoyed my fourth subject, ‘Australia-Japan Cultural Interaction’ taught by Helen Marriott. It is the area I am most interested in, particularly the areas of Australian students’ cultural and linguistic experiences in Japan and non-English speakers’ experiences in Australia. The highlight was writing an essay on secondary school student exchanges. I also liked the opportunity of presenting it to the class.

The first subject at the MA level was ‘Research Seminar in Applied Japanese linguistics’, also taught by Helen Marriott. By this stage I was feeling more at ease with studying at the postgraduate level at an Australian University. Whilst going through all the required elements of study, I appreciated the opportunity of being able to choose a topic of individual interest for the assignments. I have learned in depth and in detail about various factors that contribute to successful language learning outcomes as well as increased my knowledge of issues relating to validity and reliability in research. Participating in the class discussion and listening to others’ opinions were also very beneficial to me.

My latest subject was ‘Advanced Studies in Teaching Japanese as a Foreign Language’, taught by Kyoko Ogawa. It was a refreshing experience as it was conducted in Japanese and I was able to relate to the subject matter, sometimes from a native speaker’s point of view. Discussion often focused on actual issues and problems occurring in real teaching situations. We also wrote assignments that were directly applicable to our individual circumstances. I chose aspects of the new VCE Japanese for my assignments, which was very useful to my present teaching situation.

Sometimes I felt that in actual school teaching situations, no matter how carefully and thoroughly you investigate the case, or how hard you try to express your opinions either in speech or in writing, they might not be heard. However, as a student at the university, the amount of effort you put into your work is acknowledged accordingly, and opinions are listened to, if not agreed upon. This experience is truly rewarding and motivating, both in a professional and personal sense. I believe that in the long-term, and in schools where educational issues are more important than political or business issues, our knowledge and skills as educators will be valued.

It has been a wonderful experience getting to know people and studying at the postgraduate level. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the staff who have been encouraging and helpful, and students who have been friendly and supportive. Let’s keep studying – it’s a way to keep ourselves receptive and independent.

Hitoshi Mabuchi

Master of Arts (Japanese Studies) (1990), Ph.D. (in Education)(2002)

I studied at Monash in the early 1990s and then returned to Japan to teach intercultural education. During my seven years in Osaka, I established a very unique program for the first year students of my college to come to Melbourne for four weeks under the supervision of academic staff of Monash, led by Ross Mouer, Professor of Japanese Studies. My students have had an opportunity not only to learn English but also to experience serious social research.

I think the above activity demonstrates the distinctive feature of the School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics at Monash. Its strength has emerged as a result of the language courses and other subjects. I returned to Monash in 1998 to pursue my Ph.D., whilst on sabbatical. Monash has grown tremendously and changes have taken place in the last ten years. However, Monash still provided me with a wide range of intellectual stimulation. Furthermore, the dedication of school staff had not changed.

Helen Tse

Master of Applied Japanese Linguistics (2000)

In 1998, feeling nervous and uneasy about the new challenge, I arrived at Moansh and enrolled as an international student. The student life at Moansh turned out to be the most unforgettable time in my life.

In three years time, I completed a Graduate Diploma in Japanese Studies and a Master Degree in Japanese Linguistic. During that time, I had experienced various things and most of them were new for me. My first essay assignment brought me a grade E and made me feel frustration. With the help of “academic writing seminars”, I learned how to write up to standard for academic essays. It is a course that I would recommend for those who do not have any experiences in essay writing. The encouragement of lecturers and tutors granted me the confidence to speak out in front of people. There was no doubt that the most frightening day was the day I gave my first presentation in my life. I do not remember how I overcame my anxiousness and my shaking voice. All I knew was after I did the first presentation I became more confident in doing the second one, the third one and so on. The most precious thing to me is the relationship with my supervisor Helen Marriott . I have full support from her when I doing my dissertation. In Chinese, we are “as master as friend”.

At present, I am making use of my Japanese Language and my understanding of Japanese culture, helping my father doing business with Japanese companies. However, I know well that one day, I will return to Monash and do my PhD degree.

Sanae Enomoto

Master of Arts in Applied Japanese Linguistics (1994), currently teaching in a university in the USA

I cannot believe that it was almost ten years ago when I was a postgraduate student of the Department of Japanese Studies. During that time, I also taught Japanese language on a part-time basis within the Department. Thanks to the academic training and professional experience which I experienced at Monash, I was able to build a solid foundation for my career as a teacher and as a researcher. I also met so many interesting people and made treasured friends at Monash.

Looking back now, I enjoyed my experience at Monash because it is one of the few universities which offer a variety of interesting Japanese language and studies programs and I am so glad that I chose that university.

Itsuko Tanaka

M of Arts in Applied Japanese Linguistics (1998)

I acquired a Masters degree at Monash University in Applied Japanese Linguistics from the Department of Japanese Studies in 1998, supported by a Rotary International Scholarship. Currently, I am a coordinator in Japanese language at Sakhalin State University of Economics and Oriental Studies in Russia under a Japanese government program. Previously I taught Japanese for two years at the University of Technology, Malaysia, as an appointee of the Japan Foundation.

It has been only three years since I graduated from Monash but I have achieved what I had aimed to do: teach Japanese at the tertiary level. I chose Monash University for a Masters degree because Monash is well known for its Japanese department and I thought Monash offered an excellent education from supportive teachers, which helped me greatly to pursue my dream. Now I know I made the right decision. After I graduated from Monash, I was able to start a promising career as a Japanese teacher.

In my first year at Monash, I studied various topics related to Japanese grammar, teaching methodologies, academic writing skills and curriculum planning. The first year was a preliminary period for me to search for topics for the research paper which we were able to write in the second year. Two years flew so quickly and I recall that every day was a struggle. I had to read so many books in preparation for writing essays and delivering research papers. As I am not a native speaker of English, I had to make an extra effort to study to meet the Australian students’ level. For instance, my reading speed is much slower than Australian students, so I had to read all the time, even while I was having meals. I also frequently attended academic writing seminars offered by the Language Learning Service. These seminars helped me greatly as I knew nothing about academic English at the beginning.

In the second year, I wrote a research paper on teachers’ code-switching in Japanese classes. It required much time and effort, however, I greatly enjoyed this work under the exhaustive support of my supervisor who specialized in sociolinguistics.

I highly recommend enrolling in Monash University. Monash offers a superb education and I am sure that the experience at Monash will bring a bright future. Lastly, I would like to thank my teachers and friends at Monash University for the fulfilling experience I had there.