A Look Back At 2017

2017 is coming to an end in a couple of days. Let’s take a look back on what Bunka has done this year.

Friends of Bunka Night (FOBN)
FOBN is a social event where we connect Bunka students to our Japanese friends. Usually, it takes place twice a year. This year, however, we held it three times instead. When you learn a language, it is important that you make friends with native speakers so that you have more opportunities to practise the language.

The first event was in collaboration with Solo Group LLC from Japan. Bunka students had dinner with a group of Japanese university students who were on a study trip to both Singapore and Malaysia. We arranged some time to eat and interact with them.

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The second event was in collaboration with Single Point Pte Ltd, a Japanese company which places Japanese interns in Singapore-based companies. We held the event at Bari-Uma Ramen restaurant. It is located at Tanglin Shopping Centre, a mere 5-minute walk from Delfi Orchard. For your information, Bari-Uma gives Bunka students up to 30% discount a couple of times in a year. Check the noticeboard in your classroom for updates on their promotions.

Singlepoint 1

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Singlepoint 3

Singlepoint 2

The third event was in collaboration with Intelligence, one the the biggest recruitment companies in Singapore. We were fortunate to have a team of seven recruitment consultants and two of their Japanese friends to join us for the event.

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Intelligence 1

Career Seminar
Local Japanese speakers are in hot demand now! Also, they can typically earn between $500 to $1000 more depending on their language proficiency. Thus, Bunka collaborated with Intelligence and held two career seminars to let Bunka students know about the job market and hiring trends, dispel some myths about working in Japanese companies and learn how to write proper resumes (both Japanese and English).

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Online Payment Method
Previously, only Elementary 1 students could pay via PayPal or credit card. Since April 2017, this initiative has been extended to all levels. Simply register and pay online so that you do not need to carry too much cash, or make an additional trip to pay over the counter.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
Since January 2017, Bunka has been providing free Japanese lessons twice a week to Singapore Association for the Visually Handicapped. This is part of Bunka’s CSR to give back to the society. We would like to thank Kato-sensei and Toguchi-sensei who are part of the team to support this effort.

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Cultural Events: Behind The Scenes
Bunka is probably the only Japanese language school in Singapore which holds cultural events once every seven weeks. Our teachers worked very hard in ensuring the success of each cultural event. Take a look at how they have prepared for the event.

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SkillsFuture Credit (SFC)
Since 2016, all Singaporeans aged 25 and above are given an opening credit of $500 from the Singapore government to learn new skills. All of Bunka’s courses are eligible for SFC.

These are two very important points to take note of:
1. SkillsFuture changed the claim process in May 2017. Funds can only be disbursed to Bunka instead of the individual.
2. Individuals who use SFC should ensure that they attain at least 75% attendance. If not, the credit may be recovered by SkillsFuture.

Do take note of these points if you are using your SkillsFuture credit to pay for classes.

Final Note
Bunka could not have done all these without the support of our students.

We would like to take this opportunity to express our heartfelt appreciation to our students, past and present, for choosing Bunka. Most importantly, we could not have done it without the hard work and effort put in by our teachers and staff. We would also like to thank all our vendors, partners and friends for their invaluable support.

We hope that more will continue to enjoy learning the Japanese language in 2018. Happy New Year!

The Bunka Team
29th December 2017

50% Off Gakken Science Kits for Adults (For Bunka Students Only)

For a limited period, Bunka students can get to purchase Gakken Science Kits for Adults at 50% off. Pre-order now! (Stock will arrive in mid-July)

Gakken Poster

Gakken Poster (2)

 

The Bunka Team
23 June 2016

What you can do daily to improve your Japanese language skills

If you have read our post “10 reasons why you should study Japanese” (http://www.bunkalang.com/blog/10-reasons-why-you-should-study-japanese/),  you would know that we shared reasons why one should learn the Japanese language. The “Why” question is important because that is the factor that  drives you; motivates you; and inspires you to carry on, no matter how hard it is, how tired you are or just that, you have simply lost that interest.

We always emphasize that learning the Japanese language is a journey. It is never a 10-week thing. It is a skill. And like all other skills, it needs time – time to build vocabulary, master the grammar, hone listening skills and speak fluently.

There is an old adage: Every journey begins with a single step. The steps we take everyday are important.There are no short-cuts, just plain hard work, determination and consistency. So  the question is : What can you do on a daily basis to improve your Japanese language skills?

Attending lessons once a week for 3 hours is not enough. You need to work on it everyday. You can give yourself some cheat days, but not more than 3 days in a row. For a start, set aside 5 to 30 minutes a day as part of your daily routine called “My Me Time with Japanese”. And these are the things you can do to improve your Japanese language skills :

  1.  Listen to Japanese songs. Try to catch the lyrics. That is a relaxing way to hone your listening skill.
  2.  Learn to sing a Japanese song!
  3.  Watch an episode of anime (if you are an otaku). Start with subtitles first. And when you think you  are ready, turn off the subtitles.
  4.  Memorise 5 words a day. 5 x 365 days = 1825 words. That is a lot!!!!
  5.  Think in Japanese. Learn to construct sentences in your mind.
  6.  Learn 1 sentence structure per day. Read out loud.
  7.  Be like a Japanese. Use sounds or words like : sou desu ka, honto desu ka…,  eto desu ne…. , sou  sou sou…., hai, iie iie..
  8.  Read a chapter of manga (again if you are an otaku). For those who are not, fall back on  Doraemon, it is a good start! (And we have some interesting titles in our book library that you can  borrow)

All the things that we suggested do not take up a lot of your time. But these small efforts build up your ability to speak the Japanese language in the long run.

Let us know if you have more interesting ideas!

The Bunka Team
6th April 2016

Behind the Counter

Ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes at Bunka? Well, here’s a sneak peek into the lives of your friendly admin staff!

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Before that, just a quick introduction of myself: I’m Caitlyn (はじめまして!) – some of you have probably met me at the counter, or received some emails or calls from me. I have just finished my 9 months of part-time work at Bunka and am currently preparing to head over to Australia for university.

It’s been an extremely rewarding and enjoyable learning experience here, and I thought I’d just share a little bit of that with you guys!

I was looking for a part-time job last year as I had time to spare after graduating. I’ve studied Japanese for some time now, and I wanted something that would give me the opportunity to practise and use what I’ve learnt (while earning some cash at the same time hah!). Bunka was the first Japanese language school that showed up on Google, so I just went ahead and asked if there were any vacancies. It was really good timing that they happened to be hiring, and it still amazes me how I was just looking for a part-time job, something to occupy my time – instead, I received such a great experience here!

You’re probably thinking: what’s so amazing about working at Bunka? Isn’t it just another admin job? Don’t these people just sit behind the counter all day, every day? Well, you’re not completely wrong. A typical day starts with us doing the usual administrative tasks – checking the letterbox, marking attendance, receiving payments and the list goes on.

But it gets more interesting along the way, especially when it comes to replying emails, picking up phone calls or assisting walk-in students. You’d be surprised by the diversity of the students we have here! Just by sitting here at the counter, I’ve met so many people from so many different countries – France, Germany, India, China and Malaysia, just to name a few off the top of my head. There’re even students who travel all the way from Johor Bahru every week for lessons at Bunka! I’ve also met a student whose hometown is Adelaide, where I am heading for my studies, and we had a great time talking about Australia. (I’m not sure if you’re reading this, but hello! :D)

We have students from all sorts of backgrounds as well – teenagers who are still schooling, teachers, employees of Japanese companies, chefs in Japanese restaurants, air stewards, people who’ve just migrated to Singapore, students preparing to go to a Japanese university… It’s always interesting to strike up conversations with students (if time allows, of course!) and hear your stories. So look around in class and get to know your classmates! You never know what kind of amazing people you have around you every week, until you get talking! :)

So to all the students who I’ve had the privilege of meeting, who have inspired me with your stories, and who have made my time here such an interesting and eventful one, THANK YOU! All the best in your Japanese studies, and I hope you press on and persevere till you reach wherever your goal lies. It will be worth it!

Next up, the teachers! I’m not trying to boast, but our teachers have so much patience and dedication to the work they do. I always took my teachers for granted in school (and secretly disliked some of them), but working here has made me develop a new appreciation and respect for all teachers as I see what goes on behind the scenes – the amount of work, effort and time that goes into every class, every student.

And it’s not every day that you get to interact with friendly, native Japanese people! Working at Bunka was the perfect opportunity to immerse myself in a Japanese environment, and I could ask whatever burning questions about Japan I had! It was especially fun to have had the chance to work closely with the teachers during the Bunka Matsuri last year. 先生、本当にお世話になりました!

Last but definitely not least! I’ve really enjoyed myself working with my fellow admin staff, as well as the Management. You’ve changed the way I see people, especially receptionists! I used to think admin jobs were boring, and so people who did admin must be boring as well – how wrong I was! If you’ve seen our pictures on the blog, or the tag #bunkagirls (well, we have a guy now so maybe #bunkateam instead haha!) on Instagram, you’d probably know that we’re a crazy bunch! So feel free to approach us at the counter, we don’t bite!

Anyway, I’ve grown and learnt so much from all of you; you guys have made my first job an unforgettable experience that I’ll always hold dear to my heart. Thank you for all the opportunities you have given and entrusted to me. I’m grateful to have been able to do more than just admin here – doing some translation and being part of the Bunka Matsuri was especially fun! I never thought I’d be able to find a job where I get to do what I love, but you proved me wrong. Thank you for being so patient with me and always pressing for my growth and development. I feel so welcomed, loved and accepted in this warm and homely Bunka environment. To the students, I hope you find that touch of home here too! I’ll definitely be back to visit! :)

Aaaand here are some photos from behind the scenes!

1At Joe’s place in June last year!

2Having lunch together as prepared for Bunka Matsuri!

Celebrating our own Matsuri :bCelebrating our own Matsuri :b

4A rare, nice and glamorous photo of us! :)

5みんな、お疲れ様でした!

6Aaand it’s a wrap! The Matsuri was a great success thanks to all of your support! 😀

7At Joe’s house again, this year in January! (ft. his really cute chihuahua Mao :D)

P.S.: Meet Abu! This is a picture of how much he’s grown since I joined Bunka heh. You can find him at the counter!

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Journey to JLPT N1 : An interview with Caitlyn

Q: Why did you decide to start learning the Japanese language?

A: This is pretty embarrassing, but probably true for many who started off in secondary school like I did. In primary school, my classmates introduced me to anime, and I was hooked. (Any One Piece fans out there? :b) This sparked my interest in the language, and when I received the opportunity to pick up a Third Language in secondary school, I was thrilled. I envisioned being able to understand my favourite shows without subtitles, and was really excited to expand my vocabulary beyond the typical “arigato”, “kawaii” or “baka”. I took up the language in Secondary 1, and studied for 6 years up till the A levels. It started off with just wanting to understand Japanese shows, but it’s more of a hobby that I enjoy now! It’s so much fun to study Japanese with like-minded people, and there’s always something new to learn!

Q: What are some of the challenges you faced?

A: I think the first and biggest hurdle was learning Hiragana. I remember struggling with reading in the first few months when Hiragana was new and foreign – they just looked like random squiggles to me! I had to refer to the Hiragana chart for every single character just to be able to read it, before trying to figure out what it meant. (Let’s not even talk about the nightmare of memorising Katakana..) But don’t worry! It gets easier once you’ve familiarised yourself with the Japanese alphabets.

There are other things I had difficulty with – remembering Kanji, counters, and the list goes on. Even now, I still don’t remember the dates of the month well! (Don’t be like me haha.) But I guess one thing that still boggles my mind is how formal or informal to be under different circumstances. It’s important to use Keigo, the honorific form, when it comes to speaking with people of authority (your bosses, teachers etc) and in the business setting. But when it comes to grey areas, I find it difficult to know how polite or casual to be.

For instance, with friends, the casual form is usually used. But when you first meet, it seems a little too presumptuous or rude to start using that form immediately. At the same time, it doesn’t leave a good impression and you may come off as snobbish or distant if you keep using the polite form! And when is it socially acceptable to start addressing someone by their first name instead of their last? This is my struggle when I speak to the Japanese. But I’m still learning, figuring it out along the way! Share some tips if you know of any! :)

Q: In spite of all these difficulties, what is it that keeps you going?

A: There were times when I thought of quitting because of all the extra work involved – in Junior College, I had to go for Japanese class twice a week, in the evening, while everyone else would be comfortably home by the early afternoon. Japanese was an extra commitment and to be honest, it did get really tiring sometimes. But since I’ve already started learning the language, I wanted to at least complete my O levels and later on, A levels as well. I guess it was a good thing that I studied Japanese in school – with my grades on the line, I had to press on even when I got tired or busy! I don’t know how you guys do it – coming down to Bunka even after work for night classes!

Other than that, what kept me going and sustained me through the 6 years was really my passion and interest for Japan’s vibrant and unique culture. It never felt like just another subject I had to study for, and revision didn’t feel as dull when I’m learning what I want to, instead of what I have to. Every lesson was an adventure and a challenge to learn the language proper, instead of just picking up random words commonly used in the shows I watched.

There’s also that great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction when I found myself able to express myself and converse in a whole new language! I could recognise words and read Japanese signboards, or even the small print on Japanese products! It’s a really great feeling, and never fails to motivate me to study harder! I’m also thankful for all the friends I’ve met along the way, who share the same passion as I do. We went for exchanges and cultural events together, and even studying can be fun when you have someone going through it with you!

Q: What is your greatest takeaway?

A: My greatest takeaway was learning about a whole new country – not just their language, but Japan as a whole – its history, traditions, pop culture, social problems and so on. In JC, the syllabus focused more on Japan’s current issues, rather than the language itself. In class, we read articles, had group discussions and prepared presentations on various topics like gender equality, aging population, unemployment, nuclear energy and so on. It was kind of like GP (General Paper), except in the Japanese language, and from a Japanese perspective. It’s interesting that I started off learning Japanese just as a language, but later it seemed more like a Humanities subject!

But more than just gaining knowledge about the country, it is the connection with Japan that I developed over the years that means the most to me. I’m not sure how to explain this, but you may have experienced it before – getting really excited when you pass by Japanese tourists on the streets and realising you can understand them (and maybe you start to eavesdrop as well), anything on the news, magazines, Facebook, or even ads that mentions Japan just catches your attention immediately, and you have the most interesting conversations when you realise that the other person likes Japan as well. And when you finally get to visit the country, there’s this great sense of belonging (even though you don’t live there) and you feel like you have to start planning your next trip there already! Anyone feels the same way? :b

Q: What is one memorable incident in your journey of learning the language?

A: The first thing that comes to mind is really silly – it still makes me laugh when I think about it! In Secondary 2, my friend (she speaks Japanese too) and I were at Orchard Road and we were really bored, so we decided to do this: we stood in front of a huge Christmas tree and pretended to be Japanese tourists. We asked random people on the street to help take a photo of us in Japanese and broken English, and it was really amusing to see their reactions! (I’m sorry, I really have no idea why we did that.)

Q: How long did it take for you to achieve JLPT N1?

A: I started studying Japanese in Secondary 1 and took the JLPT N1 exam when I graduated from JC. So that’s 6 years in total! But it really differs from person to person. I have a friend who took the exam after 4 years, but she does a lot of self-studying and is really into Japanese music. She is also the top student of my cohort, so she may not be a good reference point for everyone. :b I took the exam after 6 years of studying – and even then, the N1 exam was really tough. Most of the words tested in the vocabulary were completely foreign to me; I probably got by because of the additional advantage of knowing Chinese and being able to recognise the Kanji. It also depends on the lessons you are taking – how intensive they are, and whether they are specifically for students to prepare for the JLPT exam.

Q: How was your experience taking the JLPT exam?

A: The JLPT exam is pretty important, especially if you are looking to study in Japan or work in a Japanese company. This certification is recognised internationally, and most companies would require at least JLPT N2 if they are looking for an employee who is proficient in the language. The exam is held every year in July and December and you can register for the exam with JCS. (I always did the registration with my friends so that we could sit together during the exam. :b)

I took the N4 exam at the end of Secondary 2, N3 in Secondary 3, N2 in Secondary 4 (bad idea – I barely passed, haha) and finally N1 at the end of JC. Most schools don’t follow the JLPT syllabus, but as you learn more of the language, there should be no problem taking the exam as most of the syllabus will overlap. Nevertheless, it’s important to try out the trial questions on the JLPT website to check if the level is suitable for you. There are also websites you can visit (I used this one: http://www.tanos.co.uk/jlpt/) to get a list of vocabulary and grammar that will be covered in for each level. It’s really useful – I had the list on my phone so I could study on the go. For the higher levels, it would be good to get some practice by buying or borrowing JLPT assessment books. Some libraries should have them; otherwise, I bought mine from Kinokuniya.

Q: Do you have some tips for studying Japanese?

A: Even though I’m really not a model student in anyway (my teachers probably hated me haha), I think being consistent in class is really important. This would definitely build up your foundation in the language and ensure that you remember what was taught. I never imagined in Sec 1 that I would continue studying Japanese all the way for 6 years, or even take the A levels and N1 exam. But it’s the consistent work you put in each time, bit by bit, that adds up to a whole lot of progress – sooner or later, as you look back, you’ll be amazed at how far you’ve come!

Other than that, I think the best way to improve in the language is to immerse yourself in the Japanese culture. (#wherelanguagemeetsculture hahaha) Whether it is looking up the lyrics of your favourite Japanese song, watching dramas or speaking Japanese with your friends, grab every opportunity to apply and practise what you have learnt! If possible, go for things like cultural events, immersion programmes, matsuris and so on. There are also volunteer programmes (you even get paid for some of them!) for you to act as tour guides for Japanese high school students who visit Singapore. Otherwise, you can make Japanese friends through social media too.

By the way, Bunka holds cultural events every 7 weeks, so do look out for them and go together with your classmates! It’s a really fun and affordable way to experience the Japanese culture, and get to know your classmates better too! The tickets run out really quickly because there are limited slots, so make sure to get your tickets early!

Also, I find this website (http://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/easy/) really useful! You can read news articles in simple Japanese here, with furigana too! For words that are more difficult, little textbooks explaining them appear when you mouse over them. It’s a good way to practise reading in Japanese, as well as pick up commonly used words, all while catching up on the news. If there are words you don’t understand, you can also look them up on online dictionaries like weblio (http://ejje.weblio.jp/), or even apps like imiwa (http://www.imiwaapp.com/) for iPhone users.

All in all, I think it’s important to know why you’re doing what you’re doing. It could be to understand your favourite shows, communicate with the locals while you’re in Japan, or have an edge in a Japanese company – whichever it is, find something that keeps you going! I like this quote from Stefan Michalak – “Your why is far more than just your core reason that drives you, it’s the foundation you need to build upon, the thing you’ll need to reflect on when things get hard and you feel like giving up.”

Bunka Totebag and Notebook

In our last post, we talked about Sakura-chan and Taiyou-kun. This week, we will talk about our tote bag and notebook. Students who had participated in our Bunka Charity Matsuri in August 2015 and had purchased the $50 ticket received the tote bag and notebook. The proceeds from the sale of the tickets were donated to the Children’s Charities Association of Singapore. A Big “Thank You” to all of you!

From after the Charity Matsuri onwards, all our new E1 students get the tote bag and note book for free. The  process of designing  the tote bag and notebook took a very long time as we had a hard time deciding on which design to use. In the end, we decided that we should use a fun and trendy design.

This is what it looks like :

Bunka Merchandise

 

可愛いでしょう?

The Bunka Team
2nd March 2016

 

 

Who are they? Sakura-chan and Taiyoo-kun

Have you ever wondered what (or who) the little Sakura flower with eyes and hands on the login page in your student portal is?

That is Sakura-chan, Bunka’s mascot since 2010 when we celebrated our 25th Anniversary. It is the winning entry from our “Bunka Mascot Design Competition”. She has since been on our website.

Here is a short write-up on our lovely Sakura-chan.

Sakura chan

What about Taiyoo-kun? The little “sun” in diapers with a big hairdo. You probably have seen him everywhere in Bunka – in the reception area, in the classrooms, in our 30th Anniversary commemorative magazine. In conjunction with our 30th Anniversary, the Bunka team brainstormed for a new mascot to tag-team with Sakura-chan. Ideas like Onigiri-kun, Momo-kun and even Momosumo (cannot be used because sumo is the name of the sport) were suggested. In the end, Billie came up with Taiyoo-kun.

Taiyou

If you want to find out more about Taiyoo-kun, just check with Billie when you come for class.


The Bunka Team
24th Feb 2016

Loyalty Programme

LC

All Bunka students will receive a loyalty card when they sign up with us. This programme was started in May last year in conjunction with our 30th Anniversary celebration. To date (about 9 months since its launch), about 500 students have enjoyed the discounts of $50 off their course fees in the various levels and some 80 students paid only $20 for their first Pre-advanced 1 course.

This is how it works :

  1. Elementary 1 to Intermediate 4
    a. You will get $50 off when you sign up for Intermediate 1.
    b. You will get another $50 off when you sign up for Intermediate 3.
    c. You only need to pay $20 when you sign up for Pre-advanced 1.

(Students who took the placement test are not entitled to the $100 bonus discount)

  1. Pre-advanced 1 to Business Japanese students
    a. You will get $50 off after every 3 terms.
  1. Individual students
    a. You will get 1 free hour (worth $80) with purchase of 3 blocks of 4 hours.

This is our way of saying “Thank you”.

We hope you will continue to enjoy the lessons with Bunka.

 

The Bunka Team
2nd Feb 2016

What is #bunkaeats

Bunkaeats tag

Are you into Japanese food? What Japanese food do you like? Do you always take photos of your food before eating? If yes, do take part in our #bunkaeats Instagram activity.

We want to know what you love about Japanese food. Simply hashtag #bunkaeats and we will feature it if it is a really 美味しそう (Oishisou = looks delicious) photo.

By participating, you henceforth agree to let Bunka post or reblog your photos on our social networking sites.

Let’s flood #bunkaeats!!!

 

The Bunka Team
27th Jan 2016

Nihongo with Bunka

Textbook Covers

In conjunction with Bunka’s 30th Anniversary, we are pleased to introduce our new textbooks “Nihongo with Bunka”.

These books would have been impossible without the hard work and effort put in by our Academic Director, Ms Mizusaki Machiko, and her team comprising Mr Takatsuka Toshiro, Ms Shida Yuriko, Ms Namba Miho, Mr Kobayashi Tsutomu and Ms Nakaya Hitomi. The content is complemented by the cover design, layout and artwork contributed by Ms Billie Kan.

SN 03What is special about these books is that they incorporate practical application of the language in a day-to-day context. Students will get to learn a wide range of vocabulary that they can use immediately after each lesson.

Practice makesperfect and this is especially true for language learning. Students need to practise, practise, practise and do it so often that it becomes a natural part of them. Also, you will have fun practising with your friends in class!

We hope that you will like these books and enjoy the process of learning the language.
The Bunka Team
20 January 2016