Innovations Roadmap #7


Major [mey-jer]
1. A subject or field of study chosen by a student to represent his or her principal interest and upon which a large share of his or her efforts are concentrated.
2. A student engaged in such study
TOPIC: What is your major and why did you pick it?
I am a double major in Japanese and linguistics, TESOL track. I usually do not specify which track of linguistics I’m taking, because most people I’ve met either 1) don’t care or 2) don’t know what TESOL is and kind of nod and say, “Oh, that’s nice!” There are a few who are thinking, “Hey, that’s awesome! And interesting! Why did you pick those two majors?”

I picked Japanese because I’m very passionate about the culture, history, and language of Japan, and I always take care to stress this. I’ve had negative experiences before when I said my major was Japanese in high school. For some reason, everyone immediately thought I was into Japanese because of the anime. I have a much stronger reason for studying Japanese. I want to be able to talk to the Japanese side of my family. One of the things on my bucket list is to live in Japan, and I don’t want to seem like I’m a Westerner whose only knowledge of Japan comes from anime. I have a huge respect for Japan. By being a Japanese major, I can study more about the culture, language, and history and find a greater appreciation for it. I’ve been to Japan a few times, usually to visit family, and each time I go, I find something else beautiful about this country. I’ve been to Kanazawa several times and there’s always a trip to the Kenrokuen, one of the three great gardens of Japan. I found a statue I hadn’t seen before.

Kenrokuen Gardens. One of my better pictures.


My last trip to Japan was two years ago. I organized where I wanted to go based on the history of certain cities. Hiroshima, Kyoto, and Nara were the three new cities I went to for the history and the temples. Seeing these beautiful places and how they’re preserved inspired awe. I also went to visit my family and friends in Toyama, Osaka, Tokyo, and Kanazawa. I became painfully aware that I could not let my mom translate everything for me. I wanted to be able to talk to my family and friends myself. There was this sense of connection I wanted with them. It was during this last trip when I decided I wanted to be a Japanese major in college, so I could study Japan and find new things to enjoy whenever I go back. I wanted to be able to pursue my knowledge of the language so I could talk to my family, but also to study Japan’s rich history and culture.

Genbaku Dome in Hiroshima


Kinkakuji in Kyoto


Suzaku-mon in Nara


Kaminari-mon in Asakusa (Tokyo)


I think I forgot to mention the food is delicious. I love the food, too.
My interest in linguistics likely starts with my first Japanese teacher. We called her Q-sensei. She left my school because she got a new teaching position that had to do with teaching special needs children speech. She’d tell us about this sometimes, when we asked why she looked so tired. Her talking about it planted the seeds. As time passed, I began to think more and more about language acquisition, particularly in adults. I already knew babies were capable of all sounds up until a little less than a year old, but I wanted to know how to teach adults a second language. My interested in ESL education must be from my mother and a group of family friends in Florida. The mothers of my close group of friends were all Japanese. They learned English as a second language. They used to joke about how I should learn Japanese, because they would inevitably revert back to Japanese when they became grandmas. This got me thinking. How did adults learn a second language? What does their brain do?
I never, ever would have picked the linguistics major at the University of Utah if it did not offer the TESOL track. If it were just linguistics and the study of, I would have stuck with Japanese and found myself another major to pair it with. But the U did have TESOL- Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages- and I thought, “That’s it, I’m a linguistics major.” I want to teach English. I’m doing volunteer work teaching English to refugees, but I want to be able to do it in a classroom setting, with late teens to early adults, and possibly even adults. I would never have been a linguistics major if that separate track did not exist. I probably would’ve been a Chinese or psychology major. That’s going to be an entirely different story, though. For now, I’m proud of being a Japanese and linguistics double major because it’s something that I’m curious and connected to.

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