Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Sun Academy Evaluation

I'll keep this short and simple so it's easy for future Light Fellows to read and refer to.

* You really get to know all the kids in your program since they're all from Yale.
* You meet a bunch of cool Japanese kids through the buddy system. If you make an effort to meet them, your Japanese will improve a lot.
* Tokyo is an amazing city to be in. So much to do and see.
* The events that the teachers arrange are hit-or-miss, but there are some very very awesome ones, like when we got to meet Masi Oka (!) and the producer of Spirited Away, who happened to be one of the buddies' dads!
* The reading materials are great--your reading skills will really improve
* At least in my case, the host family system worked out really really well in my favor--it seemed to be rather hit or miss for most of the students though. Regardless, having a host family means you'll have someone to talk to every day in Japanese. Definitely take advantage of dinner conversations.
* Friday debates with the buddies are interesting discussions with the buddies that are very good for your conversational and debate skills.
* Kajikawa-sensei is great, very understanding, and very willing to listen to your suggestions for improvement. If you're unhappy about class, be sure to talk to her about it, because she will be sure to take your suggestions into account and adjust accordingly. She's also great to talk to if you have problems with your host family or anything in general in Japan.

* Disorganization. This was my biggest gripe with Sun Academy. There were a lot of times that I was unsure where the class was heading and what exactly we were aiming to learn. I think it'd be much better if the teachers made a very set schedule with clear goals. Also, there really should be a bound book (apart from Sura-Sura for second year, third year was just a bundle of papers and one bound book of kanji) because we often received papers and then lost them in the huge pile that we amassed, making it really hard to find out what to study.
* Not enough drilling of grammar in third-year. I felt that we only vaguely understood most of the grammar and didn't get enough practice actually using it. It would be nice to spend some time actually practicing it (there was one particularly Friday where we did do a lot of practice with it and that was really helpful).
* Too much busywork as homework. I felt that a lot of the homework involved summary, which I don't think is the most helpful skill. Reading comprehension questions that involve extraction or inferring would be more helpful than summary. Also, I think essays every few days would be more helpful than reading comprehension based on summary.
* Too much reading in class. Each day was pretty much spent rereading what we should have already read for homework. Although 予習 (studying in advance) was encouraged, I felt the teachers did not enforce it enough. Moving at a faster pace would make a clear message that you can't just fool around and not study beforehand, such that most students would actually take the 予習 more seriously. Instead of reading in class, it would be more effective in my opinion to maybe summarize the reading through speaking rather than rereading and then to discuss or debate the reading or issues related to the reading.
* In summary, my biggest problem with the program was the disorganization and the heavy focus on reading. In my opinion, an organized schedule and bound book and focusing on speaking and grammar in class while leaving reading and writing for home would be infinitely more effective.

All-in-all though, I would still recommend Sun Academy in the hopes that under Kajikawa sensei's direction, the program will continue to improve since it's still young!

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