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Discovering Japan

Global language professor teaches locals about her home country

This past summer, Dr. Minae Savas had the opportunity to teach others outside of Bridgewater State University about Japanese culture and religion. 

Through a collaboration with the Plymouth Public Library, Savas organized three virtual events featuring award-winning Japanese films, presentations, and hands-on activities. 

“As a professor of Japanese studies, I wanted to support the Plymouth Library and help others learn about Japanese language and culture,” Savas said. “Learning different languages broadens our horizons and helps us recognize there are other ways of living and communicating. It helps us to interact effectively with other societies and cultures.”

Plymouth is a sister city with Shichigahama, a town located in Miyagi Prefecture, Japan. Because of this relationship, local leaders wanted to offer residents a chance to learn about Japanese culture. 

The three events Savas created allowed patrons to, as she put it, earn a “free ticket to Japan.”

Participants took part in discussions after seeing the Japanese films and enjoyed a cooking demonstration led by part-time BSU global language instructor Chizuko Wallestad

“All events were well received,” Savas said. 

So much so, that Savas was approached by the Bridgewater Public Library to create three Japanese language and cultural events this November. As of now, the events will be offered in-person. 

Helping others in the BSU community and beyond learn about foreign languages satisfies Savas, both personally and professionally.  

“One of BSU’s strategic goals is to serve as a regional catalyst for economic culture and engagement,” she said. “I believe collaborating with local libraries and communities on projects like this helps us advance one of our strategic goals.”

As a native of Japan, teaching others has also helped her better understand her own heritage. Upon moving to the United States to further her education and teach English, Savas realized that most Americans assumed she knew everything there was to know about Japan. 

“I suddenly realized I didn’t know much about my own culture,” she said. 

That realization prompted her to switch goals: instead of teaching English, she became a professor of Japanese. 

“But if I had not studied English, I would not have been able to communicate with other BSU community members, or other people in the world,” Savas said. 

Understanding different languages not only improves communication, she said, but also helps people realize we are all having shared human experiences. 

“We have a lot in common,” Savas said. 

It’s also important, she added, to realize that members of the BSU international community are doing their best to be understood. 

“I really want everyone to understand that just because we don’t speak English like you do, we are making efforts so we can communicate,” Savas said. “We take pride in our work and make BSU a culturally and linguistically diverse campus.”

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