Monday, April 9, 2012

"Deaf student qualifies to teach English in Nagoya"

Thanks to GH for calling this to my attention. Photo and story borrowed from The Japan Times Online.

A deaf student at Nagoya Gakuin University who obtained a license to teach English to students with impaired hearing graduated on March 15.

Misato Fujiwara, 23, will start teaching at Aichi Prefectural Nagoya School for the Aurally Disabled in Chikusa Ward, Nagoya, on Wednesday.

Fujiwara wore a traditional "hakama" outfit to the graduation ceremony at Nagoya Congress Center in Atsuta Ward.

"I like wearing the outfit because I can feel myself straightening up," she said.

All speeches and announcements during the ceremony were interpreted in sign language for Fujiwara.

When the university's president, Hisao Kibune, said in his address that "what makes a difference in your life are courage and willingness to change," she nodded her approval.

When she was interviewed after the ceremony, she introduced herself in fluent English: "My name is Misato Fujiwara. I love English!"

At the time she enrolled, the freshman was the only deaf student at the university and told the faculty she wanted to study in exactly the same way as the other students. In response, the faculty introduced a "note-taker system" to allow other students to take lecture notes for her.

"The most difficult thing was to look for a student who could help me. Other than that, I didn't feel myself to be disabled," Fujiwara said.

As a sophomore, she met an English-language teacher who also had hearing difficulties and became determined to take a similar path, hoping "to teach deaf students the fun of learning English."

She earned enough credits to graduate after four years, but extended her studies by another year to obtain a teaching license.

"She is a great student and seems like she doesn't feel disabled," a university official said.

While studying English sign language, Fujiwara also practiced pronunciation, repeatedly trying out words until she mastered the correct form.

Her determined efforts were rewarded when she passed the teaching exam.

"As I am deaf myself, I would like to move forward with my students by putting myself in their shoes," said Fujiwara.

"They can't hear but if they have a strong will to communicate, they will be understood in English, too."


It should be noted, and not to belittle any accomplishment, that other deaf people have become English teachers as well. I tutored one such woman in English pronunciation as she had failed that part of the test before. Yes, even deaf people who want to teach English to deaf students have to be tested in English pronunciation in order to get their teaching license. Ultimately she was able to pass the speaking part of the test by using a microphone to amplify her voice. While her pronunciation was perfect, her voice was weak and hard to hear. She is now a teacher at a deaf school.

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