Living and Learning in the Japanese Language House

As the holidays approach and we close out the semester here at Cornell, and as prospective high school seniors put the finishing touches on their college applications, we thought it would be nice to focus on the things we love most about Cornell. This first post is from sophomore Jendayi Brooks-Flemister, who writes about her experience living in the Japanese Language House on West Campus. Enjoy and happy holidays!

By: Jendayi Brooks-Flemister '18

Konnichiwa to all the prospective Cornellians and parents! I’m currently a first-year resident in Cornell’s very own Japanese Language House! At Cornell, those who want to improve their language skills in the language of their interest can live in the Language House, located in Boldt Hall on West Campus. It’s such a great opportunity to learn languages because—surprise!—you can only speak the language you’re studying in the Language House. It may seem scary at first, but the Language House is an excellent opportunity to get practice speaking something other than English. Currently, the Language House has Spanish, German, French, Japanese, and Mandarin, and if enough people are interested, other languages can pop up as well.

This year there are seven of us in the Japanese section, plus our native speaker, Genki Takahashi. Genki is currently a grad student, but even with his busy schedule, we manage to have a great time in the LH. Each week we meet four times for dinner and once for a conversation hour. During these times, we only speak Japanese (though we may occasionally use English to convey certain expressions). Our conversation hours incorporate lots of different activities. One week, we walked to the Cornell Plantations so Genki could sketch for one of his projects, but on the way we learned a lot of words for animals and plants. At Ithaca’s annual Apple Fest (the most exciting part of fall semester, honestly), we got awesome food and wandered around the Commons. We’ve also done karaoke - my Japanese is nowhere near as good as some others’ in the program, so the last time we had karaoke night, I settled for singing in English with Julie (sophomore, and the only other girl this year). The final song of the night was a beautiful rendition of Genki and Denis (junior) singing “Never Gonna Give You Up.” I 10/10 would recommend them for American Idol.

During the first weekend of November, Genki decided to throw a nabe party with Japanese students from neighboring colleges. Nabe is a tradition Japanese hot pot of vegetables, meat, tofu, and delicious broth for cold nights. Julie and I spent a lot of time watching the Japanese students cook.  During one of our conversations, they told us that if they didn’t look at us, we sounded Japanese. We were so amazed and excited to realize how much the Japanese Language House has already been improving our speaking skills! Once the nabe was finished, we all dug in. It was so delicious! It was my first time having traditionally cooked Japanese food. After dinner, we all got on Andy’s WiiU and did karaoke for hours (the Japanese absolutely love karaoke). It was really cool to see how similar our cultures are, yet still so different.  They were all going crazy over singing different songs, and Julie and I even did a duet! I still didn’t sing in Japanese, but one of the songs Julie did was definitely familiar, so I read along (poorly).

For Thanksgiving break, I wanted to make a great American-style meal for us, since nearly all of us stayed for the break. Julie, Denis, Genki, and I ended up making turkey breast, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes and gravy, a cranberry and walnut salad, and baked ziti. Julie attempted to make apple roses, but we didn’t exactly follow the instructions…they still tasted amazing, though! It was a great time to bond for all of us, and Genki taught us some Japanese measurements in the process. 

We really do have an wonderful time in the Japanese Language House. We’ve all become so close, and nearly all of us are returning for next year. I can speak especially for myself when I say that I have become much more confident in my speaking skills (and my Japanese oral exam proved it, too!). So, if any of you prospective Cornellians out there are interested in learning a new language, and maybe even learning it full time, I highly recommend Cornell for its languages and the Language House. It truly is a one-of-a-kind experience.

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