I had the pleasure of spending an academic year under the instruction of Ohara Sensei and found the experience very enriching. Before coming to Ohara Sensei, I had had no formal training in Japanese; having spent a summer in the southern region of Japan’s main island, however, I had a basic understanding of the language’s structure and was capable of carrying on lively and expressive, if not grammatically correct, conversation.
Throughout my year of private lessons, however, Ohara Sensei took it upon herself to expand my knowledge primarily via “filling in the gaps”, i.e. very effectively determining those areas which I did not have a firm understanding of and subsequently providing rigorous, very informative and always entertaining instruction. Not only did my grammar, reading skills, knowledge of the structure of the language and formal communication improve tremendously, but I also thoroughly enjoyed exploring Japanese culture in my lessons through her explanations and anecdotes.
I returned once again to Japan as an exchange student in the fall of the subsequent year. One of the most valuable things that Ohara Sensei was able to offer me was an insider’s understanding of Japanese cultural conventions – a very rigid and difficult to understand system, from subtle conversational techniques to behavior in guests’ homes and the classroom, etc. Furthermore, whenever the opportunity presented itself, I found myself diving confidently into conversations on all ranges of topics, feeling extraordinarily well prepared and with a far better command over the language than I had experienced before. Spending a year learning from a Japanese native speaker such as Ohara Sensei, given her extensive knowledge of the language and her teaching ability, allowed me to take advantage of the many resources my community within Japan had to offer throughout my exchange experience instead of lost in the language and communication. I would highly recommend her as a teacher for students serious about learning Japanese.