THS says Kon’nichiwa to Japanese class

Tamara Crump, Staff Writer, The Hi-Times

Last year, students at Tupelo High School heard whispers of a new foreign language class coming in the fall of 2015. Unlike most rumors, this one was 100 percent accurate.

“It’s great,” senior Gabriel Tasma said. “It’s a mix of rigorous and laid back, because the teacher is really nice, and she takes the time to help everyone out.”

The new Japanese class has arrived, and seems to be going well. Along with the new class, THS has also gained a new teacher.

Lucky for currently enrolled students, Japanese teacher Atsuko Sato to accept this job. Being a graduate of the University of Mississippi, Sato is teaching the Japanese class through a program at Ole Miss.

From the moment the students walk in the classroom, Sato said they are no longer allowed to communicate in any language other than Japanese without her approval.

Sato uses this communicative language learning method to ensure that the students fully delve themselves into the language and culture. Since this isn’t an easy task to accomplish, Sato often will make gestures to give hints to the students to help them understand what she is talking about.

Originally, THS was supposed to be gaining a Chinese class, but Tasma said he wanted something different. He proposed that THS get a Japanese class, which Principal Jason Harris said he would consider if there was enough interest.

Tasma said his passion for Japanese doesn’t stop at just having the class. He said he also plans to study in Japan at some point in his college life.

Tasma wasted no time in searching for anyone who would help him with his petition. Many students at THS thought it was a good idea, and agreed to help him, he said, by signing the petition.

“We actually have a need for an understanding of the Japanese culture because of increasing affairs with Japan in Tupelo,” Tasma said.

Sato agreed.

“The relationship between Japan and America is growing, and in addition to that I hope there are many more people that are interested in learning about Japan,” Sato said.

The 9-week course is rather rigorous since it has many objectives to meet in such a short time.

They include handling basic conversational skills, understanding basic conversation and grammar, understanding basic cultural elements, and reading and writing Hiragana, Katakana and some Kanji.

At the end of this course, students will be expected to complete three final assignments, an oral presentation, a video project and a student-led cultural presentation. Students enrolled in the course are eligible for a dual credit as long as they pay the college fee.

Harris explained that the price has been set at $459, which is half the cost students would pay at Ole Miss for the same course. Tasma said that the dual credit is optional, so a student can take the class and just get a high school foreign language credit.

If it continues to go well, Harris said there is a possibility that Japanese II will be offered next.