Seedtime Multilingual™

In the face of the coronavirus outbreak, here are some assessments and observations that I have from living here in Shanghai.


Toni’s photo – partial scale model of the city of Shanghai taken at the City Planning Office in October 2019

In the middle of an epidemic, although mostly contained in Wuhan, still very present in many other cities across China, and as an expatriate who is not a citizen of this country(China), it is a hard but crucial decision to make. To go home or not to go home…That is the question. Abandon my current life, job, home, and loose the majority of my belongings and income security to return to the US away from the virus host country or stay being extremely vigilant in hopes that things will get better not worse. It is a risk since, realistically, no one knows what will happen.

From my experience I can see the government is, at this point, making phenomenal efforts to help by providing assistance, enforcing paid holiday despite the extension of one weeks to the official holiday and postponing the return of students for one month, Feb 29th. At this point in time, conditions here are more or less the same.

People are alert and cautious, but life goes on. I hope I am making the right decision and I believe that I will know what to do when the time is right. I spent the first seven days of this at home time pouring over the internet reading any and everything I could get my hands on, spending hours on the phone with family and friends, spending day after day worrying and trying to decide if I should leave or stay, constantly checking flight prices, daily infection statistics, spending hours in massive group chats trying to ty current. I found myself not being able to sleep, staying up until the sun came up, night after night, forgetting to drink water, getting migraines, crying until I felt exhausted, being torn apart by all of it. Then I saw a vlog of an expat who is in Wuhan who did not leave. He said, “If I worry now and then I get it and worry again then I’ve worried twice. “

It may take a few months or maybe even a few years for things to return to the way they were, but the communities here are strong, the people pull together, Chinese and foreigners, and I know that here more people would help me that if I were at home, so I will stay. Being at home puts me at no greater ease so I might as well stay. I could also unknowingly carry the virus home with me and unintentionally affect the ones I love.


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Toni’s Photo of Rooftops against high-rise background in Shanghai 

It is a crisis, not an apocalypse, and I am not helpless here. We need to stay still, let the incubation period pass, stay out of close contact with others. And practice good cleanliness habits. I do not know how this will go but I am hopeful so that’s a start. Does that mean I am not scared? No. I am. But there is always something, some challenge, some scary situation, some disruption. Seems to be the way of things. All that I can do is to do all that I can do and that’s exactly what I plan to do. 


Have You Ever Wanted to Learn a Foreign Language ?

Not sure where to begin? With a sea of web-based resources, who knows their beginning from their end? My journey to learn Japanese language started many years ago.  Unable to physically immerse in language study for a lengthy period of time after studying at a Japanese University (Kansai Gaidai, Osaka), my return home meant returning to a job and managing family matters. Improving my language skills required taking every opportunity available,  and some twists and turns in seeking resources (on-line courses, books, and study partners).  I always seek to communicate and learn from native and non-native speakers. Although rewarding and a lot of fun, acquiring a foreign language can also be a slow and sometimes tedious journey and well worth the effort!

It occurs to me that one of the most effective ways to learn a language is to learn the people who speak the target language. Mandarin Chinese is difficult to learn, I have managed to improve with time, and having knowledge of Japanese Kanji (Chinese characters used in Japanese writing) has helped a lot with reading.  My Chinese friends and associates have been a the best source of encouragement, correction, and even challenge. 

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The most inspirational and reassuring experience as a language learner, teacher, or enthusiast is to “get up, get out, get moving” to discover the country and its peopleTravel to the target country may not be an available option, but there are scores of books, electronic media, and resources, as close as your local library, internet websites, chambers of commerce, and even television (for example, National Geographic and Create T.V. travel shows)

As a student and teacher of language, who majored in Interanational Studies in college, I can recall the excitement of learning about Chinese Politics (and history), studying under the guide of Dr. John Copper, Rhodes College, Memphis, TN.

But until the Odyssey Unlimited China, Tibet, and Yangtze River Tour (a wedding anniversary trip with my husband), my book knowledge had not been challenged, nor did I have the full understanding and appreciation for the country and people until I experienced this small group tour (over a 17-day period of flights) taking us to Beijing, Chonqing, Lhasa Tibet, Three Gorges Dam, and a Yangtze River Boat Tour.  Our jouney ended with a final flight to Shanghai for an extended four days. The tour was an opportunity to participate in the history, politics, and culture of China.

As difficult a time as I had breathing in Lhasa, it seemed all worth it when I was welcomed (as a mere bystander and tourist), invited to join the Tibetans in their morning dance in the mountains!  We shared a rare moment where we spoke same language in dance. Somehow, I forgot about the the difficulty in breathing the Himalayan atmosphere. Tibetans are genetically adapted to the high altitude, I am not.  Yet, like magic, as I danced, breathing was not problem at all.


Most importantly, the experience was a chance to speak, read, and write Chinese language and take advantage of every effort to communicate and be understood. Like me, there were a few Chinese, who desired to excercise their knowledge of English, which made for a dual-language exchange and harmonius communication.


Here, I share a few photos (and videos) from our China tour.  However, photos nor video can express the experience of being immersed in the language and culture. My advice to the langauge learner and culture ethusiast, “love the langauge you’re in,” but if you are really into learning a new language; start by getting to know, try to learn, more about the people and their culture.


Tiannamen Square_near Great Hall.jpg


Our teaching method here at Japanasu is a little different from other Japanese learning websites. We teach Japanese grammar from the very start. We have found that teaching students grammar first gives them a solid foundation from which they can then build upon. It also means that students can confidently string together sentences from day one. As they absorb more vocabulary, they are then able to creatively apply the rules in order to construct a wide variety of new sentences.


Original Art from Moritani-sensei

Our partnership with Seedtime Multilingual started in the fall of 2019. In fact, Toni Sillman, the founder and president of Seedtime Multilingual, Inc., used to be a private student of Aki Moritani, who is the head teacher at Japanasu. Toni approached us in 2019 about the possibility of partnering up and the rest is history! We are very excited about the prospect of teaching Japanese to under-privelidged students and to make a difference to their lives.  Seedtime Multilingual students not only get free courses, but they also are provided with one-to-one skype lessons to ensure they are progressing well. Who knows what opportunities will lie ahead for them in the future! Let’s plant seeds together for a better future!

At Japanasu we are always looking for enthusiastic article writers! Topics can be anything to do with Japanese language or culture. Contributors are rewarded with free access to all our courses and premium content! Check out our articles page here to see some examples, some of which are written by us and some by our contributors. Email if you are interested in becoming a contributor.

What is your language curiosity?  In other words, what interests, baffles, or gets under your skin about language learning?  Of course, if you are a heritage speaker, you already have a (non-English) first language (L1) .  I know of parent complaints about their children of Hispanic or Asian heritage, who lacks skill in their heritage language; instead, showing preference toward English, with little or no interest in their ” mother tongue.”  Or, maybe you are struggling with a second language (L2), perhaps struggling with English. In some countries where several languages are spoken, English is used as the primary language of communication, a kind of lingua franca,“a language of commerce and widely used as such.  As our program receives funding support through donations and grants, in addition to Japanese Language, our site will offer a menu of other languages, including English langauge tutoring, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese. This site is also translation capable, scroll down to bottom of ‘Home Page’ and choose your language to join us in making language and culture great again!

As a healthy reminder and a means of rejuvenation, think about when you first met (began to listen, learn, speak) “the language you’re in.” Revive that feeling of never wanting to stop practicing, peeling away pages of a language dictionary, and piecing together words, stumbling over grammar, straining through audio and (and most recently, video). Did you make a complete fool of yourself, trying?  Good!  This is how language is learned, with great effort and lots of self-motivation.

My interest in Japanese language began with a chance meeting while working at a multinational chemical company in Memphis, TN.  Prior to meeting Kaoru Matsuyama and Takeshi Suzuki, I had no interest in the language nor Japanese culture.  My curious view of the world was crowded from the perspective of single-parenting, work-a-lifestyle-work-a-holic, with the usual trials and error of the day-to-day. Read More

Except for the foresight and forward-looking culture of Buckman Laboratories International, Inc., created by the company’s President at that time, I would not have had the opportunity to complete my education at Rhodes College and further develop my interest in Japanese language.  To the Buckman corporate family, my Rhodes College professors and conselors, and all of those whose help I relied upon at a very difficult period in my journey, I will forever remain grateful, mindful, and always thankful.  The attached article proclaims details of my journey. 

As I moved on to other employment experiences, however, I recall the overwhelming feeling of accomplishment while working at another company.  I was elected co-chair of a company employee resource group, The Asian Resource Group. Our team was set to task to produce a Prospectus of potential business in ASEAN (the Association of South East Asian Nations) countries. Our team’s focus was the country of Indonesia. Whether due to gender or ethnicity, or some other reason/non-reason, many of my employers perceived no value in my language ability and cultural interests, and there were no work-related opportunities to integrate these competencies into my career path. I decided by faith that my future and dreams do not require the validation of an employer, but the confirmation of the creator. (Proverbs 3:6 KJV)

Making a decision to leave corporate work and focus on my passion for foreign language learning and teaching did not appear from an otherwise clear blue sky. I worked in the corporate sector for many years, never giving up on the desire to improve fluency and understanding of the Japanese language. For years, I searched out and found opportunities to tutor, teacher, speak, and encourage learners and language enthusiasts to love the language they learn and no longer defer their dream of understanding other cultures and acquiring a new language.

My dream of language acquisition and sharing my love of language and culture is no longer a dream deferred.  *Love the Language You’re In*

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What makes the characters so difficult to remember? Why do Japanese have two readings for Kanji? What are keys to memorization? This blog does not attempt to teach linguistics nor the elements for learning the Kanji (this can be done in your own self-study) , but in my experience (with learning Mandarin Chinese and Japanese), I have tracked a few tips: spending time looking at the characters is the first step to becoming comfortable with what we see!  That feeling of discomfort with foreign writings and sounds, letters, script is no doubt the same feelings that we get in the presence of those (characters or persons) most unlike ourselves, linguistically and culturally.

Learning Kanji or any other non-alphabetic, non-Western writing system is like making  new friends.. from a different culture.  We size them up first, their appearance, hair, features phenotypes/genotypes, speech, sound or what they portray in character.  Is this right?  I think that the more we look, listen, and pay attention, the more familiar we become with the unfamiliar.  Thus, the less uncomfortable we feel learning Kanji…. and characters!

Dare to look, breathe, read.

Kanji are Japanese characters (adopted from the Chinese writing, called Hanyu (in the early 7th century,) literally meaning Han Characters Laying to rest formal linguistic words, like orthography, logographic, let’s simply agree that as English-speakers, non-alphabetic characters seem very scary! 

Remembering The Kanji 1 Flash Cards 2 offers Kanji Cards for free download.  These are suitable for Beginners, great review for more advanced learners.  Kanji is the subject here, but also the underlying human feeling of discomfort with the unfamiliar.

Clifford Black,, a former mentor, and I refer to as,  a Super Educator par excellence, introduced me to the concept of “taking a picture” with my eyes at a time when I was struggling with Kanji. This is among the many tips and tricks for learning how to learn that he proposes to learners of various subjects.  It’s been helpful in remembering the Kanji.