Learning and Teaching Languages

Learning and Teaching Languages

Kiyomi-sensei in Gulfport, Biloxi

My name is Kiyomi Ogawa. I am a Japanese-language teacher and my husband is an American translator. We love languages and have published six Japanese textbooks. I’m very grateful for this opportunity to connect with Seedtime Multilingual.

I’ve been teaching Japanese both online and in person, and my students are learning Japanese for many different reasons. The main reason, of course, is that they love Japan! Most of my students like Japanese pop culture such as anime and video games, but some are also attracted to traditional Japanese food, culture, and natural beauty. More than a few are taking lessons to learn Japanese phrases for travel.

Next are the people who learn Japanese for work. In Japan, there are many international industries ranging from cars and electronics to medical devices. I teach classes for people who want to work in those industries. The curriculum for these classes generally covers topics such as job interviews and business discussions, although some people have told me that they use English for work but still need to learn Japanese to build stronger bonds with their Japanese colleagues. 

On the other hand, some are not so interested in Japan itself. They simply love languages. I’m one of those people. Ever since my childhood, I’ve been very excited when I encounter foreign languages. It feels like visiting a country I’ve never been to. Not to mention that by learning a language, you can learn about a whole new world that has unique customs, culture, and history.

A few years ago, I had a Chinese student. Her Japanese was at an advanced level, so I selected some articles from a news website. Some of the articles appeared to be blocked in China, and upon realizing this the student’s eyes got wider and she looked a little tense. After the lesson, I regretted showing her the articles; however, she left a comment: “Thanks to Mrs. Kiyomi, I felt like a new window was opened for me.” Languages truly are a portal to another place.



original illustrations by the author


Learning a language is also an opportunity to change your life.

One of my students was bullied when he was young, and this kept him from having confidence in himself. Though he was initially negative about everything, he was eventually able to overcome this by speaking Japanese.

That student’s first encounter with Japanese was a toy from his Grandma. The toy  spoke Japanese, and he thought the sound was so funny so he copied it. People around him were amused by that, and it made him feel like a star. He started learning Japanese seriously, and he looked so happy during the lessons. I couldn’t believe that he used to be an introverted and quiet person. That confidence didn’t remain limited to Japanese, either—he started doing other new things too, like working out and taking music lessons. He finally became the person he wanted be.

Some might say that studying something is meaningless if you never use it. Languages, however, are gateways to worlds brimming with unknown possibilities for you. I met my husband thanks to our mutual love of languages, after all!

I hope many people can enjoy many such wonderful experiences!