Learning and living are one and the same

by Nari Matsushima

Marugakuen Facilitator vol. 1 Professional facilitators can be the secret to keeping you motivated and learning! Even if you don’t have any prior knowledge or if you’re not good yet, with the help of these facilitators, you’ll naturally want to learn more and more.


"Marugakuen °" (○ Gakuen) is an online community where you can enjoy unique lessons ranging from foreign languages to exercise routines. In this blog, we’ll hear from one of our fantastic facilitators that supports learners from all over the world. (Written by Yoko Ando)

Hello everyone! This is Nari Matsushima, the facilitator for "Let's Nihongo” (Saturday 14: 00-15: 00 Japan Time). In my class, about 10 to 20 members enjoy communicating in Japanese about that days selected theme.


Learners are participating from Vietnam, Singapore, England, Kyrgyzstan, and more… sometimes up to 15 countries. During class, learners enjoy diving into the important concepts of "what you want to know" and "what you want to convey".


There are so many Japanese classes online and in-person throughout the world. The difference in “Let’s Nihongo” is that beginners and advance levels are learning in the same room at the same time. So-called "Japanese language achievement level" has nothing to do with how my class takes place.


Some people may think, "It must be impossible to have lessons if everyone is at different skill levels.” But in reality, it is impossible for everyone to be at the same level as someone else, no matter how you structure the class. There is always a difference in “what you know” and “what you don’t know”, and no matter how much you learn, it will always be this way. So, based on that premise, how much can participants help one another? That is the goal of the class, along with the communication activities.


<Example Class> ① Ice break: "What did you eat yesterday?" ② Main activity: "New Year's Resolution" ③ 10 minutes event: Assigned presentation about “What I like” ④ Sharing word diaries ⑤ Review: Jot down what you worked on that day, what you learned, and what you want to know next.


The shortcuts for establishing the learning habit is "to teach” and "to learn" through each other. What students gain from others are not just facts, but a unique episode that allows them to memorize for a long period of time. That is what I focus on the most in this class. I think the role of a facilitator is to spread what I refer as "fuel" in class; a trigger to start off what learners want to know and talk about. After doing that, I try to speak as little as possible. "To teach" and "to learn" seem easy and but they are actually quite difficult, aren't they? First of all, most people are hesitant to ask, "what does this mean?" It can be embarrassing to ask questions when you don't understand, and it's easy for us to avoid doing so. That’s why I think it is part of the learning process for all of us to create an atmosphere where everyone can be open and feel comfortable asking questions.


One of the activities we do is called “Kanji Universe”. Typically, Kanji can be something learners struggle with when studying Japanese. To overcome this problem, this activity focuses on sharing “what you already know about kanji” and creating new kanji. This makes us think more about the kanji structure and how each character is put together. For those who can already speak Japanese, teaching others may at first seem like a waste of time.

But as an example, when a native speaker and a non-native speaker study together, unique questions can come up from the non-native. Sometimes, these questions can be something native speakers never thought about and this can be a great learning experience for them too.


<Example of Activity “Kanji Universe”:create your own Kanji>

We have a few Japanese members that participate in “Let's Nihongo”. They say that it is interesting to realize that what they assumed was common knowledge, or a common way of thinking may not always be that for other people. We’ve also gotten to see how beginners can help to broaden the understanding of even the most fluent of fellow students. When we hear the word "learning," we have often imagine a set curriculum and textbooks, a teacher who is only there to teach, and a learner that is only there to learn. But I think it’s a waste of time reading textbooks in class because that’s something learners can do on their own. If we gather and learn, I want to create time to "know more about each other" and "be able to talk about our opinions". Like I said in the beginning, all I do is prepare "fuel" for the fire; a simple conversation to get things rolling.


For me, "learning and living are one and the same". This world is full of wonders, and you can never know everything in your lifetime. The learning process is fun because there’s no end. Wouldn’t your life become boring the moment you thought "I understand every minute detail in the world"? I think, when we touch something new, our brain jumps to life, and we get to expand our vision. This is one of the secrets to experience our humanity, and really “living,” rather than just “being alive.”


The conversational activities of "Let's Nihongo" are all based on reality. We do not role-play or repeat sentences that are irrelevant to people’s lives. With the synergy of diverse personalities, we get to create our own content to study in class. It doesn't matter what your nationality or age is, because that’s what makes this class so unique! Everyone, let's enjoy life together! Let's Nihongo 😋


Every Saturday 14: 00-15: 00 We are welcoming new participants! If you have any friends that are looking for opportunities to study Japanese, please let me know :)


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