Japanese at Swarthmore

I have always been interested in learning as many languages as I could. I took French and Chinese during high school and when I came to Swarthmore I decided to start off anew with Japanese. I was curious about Japanese, as it was the so-called ‘hardest language to learn’, and I wanted to tackle the challenge. Japan has an incredible fashion scene, and the fast-moving culture always interested me. I was a complete beginner, and I had never watched anime or read manga—so I was definitely an outlier in my class.

Swarthmore’s language classes are extremely immersive and very intense. I decided to take Japanese during the middle of the first week of classes, leading me to go to office hours for two hours the day before to learn the entire hiragana alphabet before the third day of class.

Japanese has three alphabets—hiragana, katakana, and kanji—two of which we were going to learn during the first two weeks of class. In high school, I was constantly bored during a very slow-paced Chinese class, and now we were zooming through Japanese like no one’s business. I had a rough time adjusting, as freshman year was an overwhelming tornado of new people, new classes, and newfound independence, it was hard handling a language class everyday.

Kohlberg Building: The iconic language class building

However, I found my support system within the Japanese class. Meeting everyday for class led to lunches after drill and lecture, meeting for Japanese Language table on Wednesday afternoons, and going to lectures from Japanese experts. I learned and memorized at a faster rate than I ever thought possible, and learned an entire new grammar structure for speaking.

Every time I saw one of my fellow Japanese classmates we would begin to talk in our own Japanese/English jargon. It got to the point where our other friends became used to our Japanese/English speaking patterns. I gained some of my closest friends through Japanese, and I am glad I took the chance to learn something completely new. It was a challenge that made me work harder than I ever have, and I met some wonderful people along the way.

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