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Interview with a fourth-year student of Japanese

Did you speak Japanese before you came to this school?
I only knew a few words, that's all.

Is it possible to learn Japanese in just 4 years?
After 4 years you master the basics of Japanese, with a reasonable proficiency in speaking and writing.

Of course, the Japanese language is not very easy. In order to be able to read and write you need to know quite a few characters. For example, if you want to read a newspaper you need to know a minimum of 2,000 Japanese characters.

What is the best part of the study?
The variety and broad range of the programme have always appealed to me. But the best part was the time I spent in Kyoto. It was great to apply all the things I had learnt in Maastricht on a daily basis, and to experience the real Japan.

How hard is it to learn Japanese?
Contrary to Chinese, Japanese is not a tonal language. It has no finite verb forms, and no singular or plural of nouns. This is very convenient. Japanese uses three different scripts, two of which – hiragana and katakana – can be learnt in just a few weeks' time. But then the characters are a lot harder to learn. You need quite some discipline to do it.

Do you learn a lot about Japanese culture during your study?
In the Culture and Institutions component, a lot of attention goes to Japanese culture, customs and traditions. The programme includes excursions and guest lectures – it is not just theory. And, of course, it is during your stay in Japan that you learn most!

How many students are in this programme?
On average, there are 125 students that start in the first-year programme each year. In the course of time, classes tend to become smaller as numbers decrease. The good news is that in these smaller groups there is a lot of personal contact with other students and the teaching staff.

Was it possible for you to use your knowledge of Japanese during your study?
There are enough opportunities to practice your Japanses skills. For example, by acting as a tour guide for groups of Japanese tourists visiting Maastricht. Or by tutoring Japanese children. There are plenty of things you can do.

What are your future plans?
I have won a scholarship which enables me to study one full year in Japan. I am really looking forward to this! This is a great opportunity to polish my Japanese language skills.

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