Monday, August 31, 2009

Oi! Genki Ka !? Article 6: Nelson Sensei (June 2007)

Nelson Sensei
(Advisory: Some strong language contained within)

At Central Washington University's pre-graduation ceremony with Nelson Sensei. June 2000.

If you're fortunate enough to have a good teacher, it's possible to come to enjoy any subject in school. I've been blessed with great teachers ever since I started on my path of studying Japanese. I'd like to introduce one of them now.

September, 1996. My first day as a sophomore in college. My first class of the day. I got to the classroom before 9 and was waiting for our professor to show up. And show up he did. It was a very overwhelming impression. Built like a linebacker and sporting a full beard, even his outward appearance was intimidating, but it was when he opened his mouth and started speaking in perfectly fluent Japanese that he really floored me. This class was Beginning Japanese 101, so not a single person in the classroom had any idea what the heck he was saying. Twenty-five college students just sat there staring at him, mouths gaping, stunned.

This continued for about five minutes. He just kept talking, saying something in Japanese. Then he put his hands together in the time-out "T" sign and said "Hai, stoppu!", and switched over into English. "My name is Nelson, and I will be your Japanese instructor." Then he proceeded to tell us what he had just said in Japanese. "Japanese is not an easy language to learn. It is a long ways removed from English. But, if you're willing to put forth the effort and study hard, I guarantee that you'll be able to learn a lot."

Our first class ended with Nelson Sensei talking about Japanese and some of the things we would be doing in the class, but I had already decided that this was what I wanted to major in. In those first five minutes of class, all I could think was, "I have no clue what he is saying, but I want to be able to speak Japanese as well as he can!" Then, listening to Nelson Sensei as he talked to us, I could feel his passion for the Japanese language, and that really struck a cord with my own love of foreign languages. I felt that if I studied with this sensei, I'd be able to speak Japanese really well, too.

Soon after, I talked with Nelson Sensei and applied for a Japanese language major, and pushed myself every day to learn as much Japanese as I could. There were a lot of hang-ups along the way, but Nelson Sensei's easy-to-understand explanations helped me improve my skills by leaps and bounds.

Then, one day, as I was walking through the university campus, I ran in to Nelson Sensei. "Oh, Kiddo-kun! You're doing really well lately. You've got a good thing going here, and you've got a lot of skill, so don't fuck it up." Surprised, I quickly replied, "Yes sir!"

"Don't fuck it up."

I'd never been sworn at by a teacher before, so his words carried a lot of impact with them.

From that day on, I have carried Nelson Sensei's words with me, always trying to avoid betraying his faith in me, make full use of my abilities and not waste the opportunities I have been presented with. I hope I have lived up to his expectations.

1 comment:

  1. When a linebacker/prof says that you darn well pay attention!