2019 Activity Report

March Activity Report

31 March 2020
Global Japan Office Coordinator

In February, Ms. G, a third-year student, and Mr. Y, a second-year student, were chosen through an exam as candidates to study at TUFS. They were finally free from their studies for this exam, but now they are busy preparing documents for studying abroad. In particular, the medical certificate must go to multiple hospitals, and it takes a lot of time at each hospital, so if they do not start it immediately after the test, they won’t make it in time.

When they applied online, their internet connection was cut off in the middle of the process, and they noticed omissions and errors later, so they tried again and again, and they barely made the deadline. They have a strong desire to study Japan, and have studied Japanese not only in university classes but also at private language schools. Their big dream of studying in Japan is about to come true.

On the other hand, students finished hiragana in the regular classes (some classes also finished katakana) and had to wait for mid-term exams in early April. In almost every class, we conduct quizzes to confirm their knowledge up until the current point in time. There is still a certain number of students who are not enthusiastic about studying (in the case of a Japanese class, it is often a male student), and from the end of February, we decided to hold mandatory retests on Saturdays for students who scored less than 50%, and many of these students (who didn’t want to lose their free time on Saturdays) began to study hard to get good scores in the first test. It is a burden for teachers to have quizzes (marking hundreds of papers each week) and retests, but I intend to continue them as a means to encourage students to study diligently.

Also, more than 30 books that I applied for through the Japan Foundation last year have been delivered to the GJO after being registered at the university’s library. My predecessor chose a lot of good books for Japanese language teachers, so I am grateful as a successor. I would like to thank the Foundation and the Mr. Hidaka.

February Activity Report

29 February 2020
Global Japan Office Coordinator

The half-month winter vacation ended, and the new school year (the second semester) started on February 3. Class organization and timetables were announced by the Educational Affairs Division.

The second semester has me teaching nine classes a week, with each class being 80 minutes long. Undergraduate classes are generally held in the morning (Graduate School in the afternoon). Approximately 130 students, mostly in their third year of undergraduate studies, take Japanese courses in six majors: international relations and politics, international economics, international trade, international finance, international management, and insurance. These students take Japanese twice a week. Basically, separate classes are held for each of the 6 departments, but some are joined together. One of my classes is a joint class between three departments (international finance, international management and insurance), and has approximately 60 students.. We will use the auditorium because it will exceed the capacity of the GJO.

When I asked the students what kind of foreign language they had taken other than English, most answered Italian or Chinese, but there were quite a few who had taken Japanese. Those who have taken Japanese before have confidence, so they sit in front of the classroom and actively speak out, but those who have not majored in Japanese are rather reserved. I’ll have to think about how to deal with this in the near future.

As for extracurricular activities (afternoon), beginner and intermediate courses will continue to be offered at the GJO. A Japanese movie screening was held on February 11. I borrowed the video from the Japanese Embassy (thanks).

In addition to the above, this month I conducted an examination to select two students to go on exchange to TUFS, participated in a government-sponsored information session for foreign students, and participated in the first meeting for the organization of a Japanese speech contest.

Janurary Activity Report

31 Janurary 2020
Global Japan Office Coordinator

The New Year’s holiday here is short, with the first class of the year beginning on January 2. Since the students finished studying hiragana by the end of last year, and as a treat for the New Year, I decided to hold a New Year’s Karuta Tournament during my classes.

First, I gave a presentation using a projector and explained what karuta is, the rules of the game, and the types and history of karuta. I also mentioned how Hyakunin Isshu Karuta is currently popular both in Japan and abroad, partly because of the influence of manga and anime “Chihayafuru”.

As the Hyakunin Isshu is impossible for a beginner, we had no choice but to play Iroha Karuta. I had the students make the torifuda (pick up cards). The first day, class ended after making the torifuda. On the following day, the Karuta Tournament was held. The 24-person class was divided into four teams, with each team of six competing. Students who didn’t really understand the game from the presentation may have found it more interesting as they tried it out, as the atmosphere of the room seemed to escalate during their games. It was a scene similar to Japanese students playing karuta. Each player scored around 7-10 points (one card = one point). As a teacher, I was relieved to see that they had remembered hiragana in such a short period of time.

With the New Year Karuta Tournament mentioned above, classes ended for the first semester. The final exam was held on January 14, and students who did not get a good score were required to take a repeat exam. Winter vacation starts after the final exam period. Students from the countryside usually go back to their hometowns, so the dormitory is quiet. In response to requests from students living in the capital and some Japanese language learners who had not returned to their hometowns, we held classes for intermediate and beginner-level students about three times a week. So there was no winter break for us Japanese teachers …

December Activity Report

31 December 2019
Global Japan Office Coordinator

At the end of November, the efforts of all concerned were finally rewarded, and the long-awaited “invitation” (Turkmenistan-issued entry permit subject to visa issuance) arrived at hand, and on December 4, I entered Turkmenistan. Mr. W, who is in charge of accepting foreigners from IUHD, was waiting for me at the airport from 3 AM.

For the first few days, there were no classes, and I spent my time greeting the staff on campus and starting my life.

It is very helpful that Mr. B, a third year student of IUHD who was studying at TUFS until recently, is kindly supporting me.

On the first day of my arrival, I had my “first meeting” with the GJO office. Of course, IUHD is a new school, but the GJO office is also clean and well-equipped. If it is a classroom shared with other subjects, you may not be able to use it when you want to, but the GJO office is a space exclusively used for Japanese, so this is really appreciated. However, looking at the bookshelves in the back of the classroom, we can’t really say that there are enough textbooks, exercise books, and reference books, so I want to improve this.

I had my first class on the 11th. As the arrival of teachers was significantly delayed, only the 2nd year students in the Department of International Relations and International Politics (20+ students, twice a week) took Japanese in the first semester (September to January).

I was able to teach hiragana in all six classes this year, so I will try to establish their knowledge by teaching them the Iroha Karuta game at the beginning of the year.

As part of the GJO’s activities (but separate from normal classes) the students who wanted to study Japanese were divided into two classes, beginner and intermediate, and were given lessons two or three times a week. On the 25th and 28th, both classes watched and discussed the DVD “World Heritage: Yakushima” borrowed from the Japanese Embassy. The students showed interest in the unique ecosystem of 1000 year-old giant cedar trees and the subtropical seabed.

July Activity Report

9 July 2019
Global Japan Office Coordinator
HIDAKA Shinsuke

It is finally July. As expected, it’s hot… But unlike Japan, the air is very dry. Japan is in the middle of rainy season right now, so it’s probably quite humid. From now on I will be filled with trepidation.

Let’s look back on July. Classes ended at the end of June, so I made some instructions for my successor, and organized the GJO space. In the midst of all this, I was called upon by the president of IUHD. He told me he hoped to continue relations with TUFS. It would be great if more students at IUHD took an interest in Japanese language and culture. Also, since I will be sending money from my Turkmen bank account to my Japanese one, I had to go to the bank many times. Professor Nurmuhammet, who was in charge of looking out for me at IUHD, helped me prepare the documents, so it went smoothly.

Speaking of Professor Nurmuhammet, he became the vice-president of IUHD at the beginning of July. I think this is because he did such a good job of looking after the foreign staff, including those from TUFS, who came to work at IUHD from universities all around the world.

Lastly, I would like to say a few words of thanks. I was able to work in Turkmenistan for 10 months thanks to the support of a number of people. In particular, I would like to thank the TUFS Office for International Affairs, IUHD’s Professor Nurmuhammet, and the students at IUHD. Thank you all very much. I would like to end my final Activity Report by saying I hope that TUFS and IUHD can continue to develop and maintain even stronger relations.

June Activity Report

30 June 2019
Global Japan Office Coordinator
HIDAKA Shinsuke

I wrote last month that the sun rays were “trying to kill me,” and in June the heat showed no signs of stopping… It has been close to 40 degrees lately. I thought my body was handling it, but at the end of the month I got a stomach bug and felt a bit down… I’ll go into this more later, but since I finished all my class-related work, I might have been a bit exhausted.

Anyway, let’s look back on June. Most of the month was spent on exams. The exam period here was from Saturday the 8th until Tuesday the 18th. I gave out homework with the same questions as the test and had consultations with each student about their scores, during which I explained exactly what they had done wrong (consultations are strategic classes you hold before exams). As a result, over 80% of my students passed and didn’t have to take supplementary exams (I’ll leave the fate of the remaining students to your imagination). In addition to this, supplementary exams were held from Saturday 22 – Tuesday 25, and further supplementary exams were held on the 27th and 28th. On the 28th, all my class and exam work ended. It was an emotional experience.

On Wednesday the 19th, in combination with a gathering for people working at Japanese companies in Turkmenistan, a farewell party for the Japanese language teachers leaving in July, myself included, was held. I found out that, despite being here for the shortest amount of time among the teachers, I was leaving the earliest. There will be another farewell party next month, so I feel a bit strange.

This month, there was also a big movement in Japanese-Turkmen relations. On the 28th, a ceremony was held to commemorate the completion of Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd.’s GTG (Gas to Gasoline) plant (here is an article about the endeavor). While you don’t see this much in Japan, here in Turkmenistan, just as I mentioned last month, Japanese companies are working together with the local people. I hope the students studying Japanese at IUHD can have bright futures at these companies. Also, while I’m not sure if it is related to the completion of the GTG plant, Ashgabat International Airport established direct flights between Tokyo and Ashgabat (however they are charter flights; the first will be Tokyo-Ashgabat on the 27th, and Ashgabat-Tokyo on the 29th). I hope Japan-Turkmenistan relations continue to flourish.

I have no more classes, but I do have a lot of things I have to do before I return to Japan… I think I’ll write about them next month.

May Activity Report

31 May 2019
Global Japan Office Coordinator
HIDAKA Shinsuke

It is now May. All month, the weather was like summer. There were some days where it was over 35 degrees… when it gets close to 40 I start feeling like the sun rays are trying to kill me. Japanese summer is also very hot, but Turkmen summer is on a different level, and is apparently very hard on the human body. The heat is almost unbearable, but thanks to everyone at IUHD and TUFS, I am well and enjoying my work every day.

There were no big events scheduled for IUHD in May, so I thought this month would be a bit boring, but looking back I realize a lot of things happened. First, on May 4, a “Science Forum” was held at the Oguz Khan University of Engineering Technologies. This event was organized by a Japanese language teacher at Oguz Khan University. It consisted of lectures from people working in Japanese companies (Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd., Sumitomo Corporation, Mitsubishi Corporation) and science teachers dispatched from the University of Tsukuba (with local staff interpreting their lectures into Turkmen). Students studying Japanese also gave presentations in Japanese. In particular, I learnt quite a lot from listening to the talks of people working in Japanese companies in Turkmenistan. It seems that Kawasaki is building natural gas and gasoline plants, Sumitomo is building a power plant, and Mitsubishi is building an urea fertilizer plant.

From mid-May, to try something new, I screened Studio Ghibli films in the GJO Office. I’ve heard many students say “I want to watch Japanese cartoons” and “I want to watch Japanese movies”, so I borrowed some Studio Ghibli DVDs (with English subtitles) from the Japanese Embassy. By the end of May, we had managed to watch four films (Castle in the Sky, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Porco Rosso, Ponyo). Personally, I really related to the protagonist in “Kiki’s Delivery Service”, and as I watched her struggle in an unfamiliar town, a situation not dissimilar to my own, I almost cried…

At the end of the month, the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) textbooks I ordered from the TUFS Office for International Affairs finally arrived. The JLPT is scheduled to be held in Ashgabat in December this year, so I asked for some practice tests. When I showed the students, they were very happy.

Also, from May 27-29, I participated in recording my voice for a Japanese textbook aimed at secondary students (grade 4 and 8, 8 is equal to second year of junior high in Japan). This textbook is being made by an advanced-level specialist at the Japan Foundation. In addition to teaching Japanese, being able to participate in the making of teaching materials was also a big learning experience for me. For more information on Japanese language education at a secondary school level in Turkmenistan, please refer to Uehara (2018) and the Japan Foundation’s page, “Japanese Language Education Information by Country – Turkmenistan (2017)”.

Next month will mostly be spent on exams. I wonder how the students will do? I look forward to bringing you next month’s report.

April Activity Report

30 April 2019
Global Japan Office Coordinator
HIDAKA Shinsuke

It’s April. The middle of this month seemed to go back to winter temperatures (even then it was still about 15 degrees), and it rained a lot, which is rare for Turkmenistan, so it was a little unpleasant. However, temperatures at the end of the month went back to 25 degrees and above, and it felt like summer.

In April, the mid-term exams are held from the 6th until the 12th. From my experiences last semester, students who don’t study really don’t do anything at all, so I gave them homework to try and improve their scores. The homework and the test had more or less the same content, but there were still some students who couldn’t complete the test… I’m thinking everyday about how I can get them to take more interest in their studies.

There were two big events in April. One was the Japanese Speech Contest. This contest was held on Saturday the 27th at the Azadi Turkmen National Institute of World Languages. Three students from IUHD participated (two in the poetry recitation category, one in the beginner-level speech category). One of the students won second place in the poetry recitation category. There are some students at IUHD who could have entered the intermediate-level speech category, but the competition clashed with the oral examinations for their graduation theses, so they couldn’t compete. It was my first time helping students prepare for their speeches, so a lot of it was trial-and-error. In regards to this, please take a look at this newsletter, “Japanese Language Education Promotions: Japanese Speech Contest Edition,” compiled by Mr. Oouchi, Japanese language guidance assistant at the Japan Foundation. It has information on the activities at universities other than IUHD, so it’s worth a read.

There are no exams or big events scheduled for May, so hopefully I can plan some Japanese-related event. What would be good I wonder?