Learning to communicate involves much more than picking up a language, and at Sakuraa Nihongo Resource Centre (SNRC) in Malleswaram, speaking Japanese is only one part of the journey.
“Language cannot be taken away from the art and culture and traditions of a place,” says A. Srividya, head of languages at the centre, which serves as a language facility — carrying out translation, training and interpretation as well as conducting basic Japanese classes for anyone ranging from individuals to professionals and companies.
The centre guides students through basic conversations and prepares them for the first four levels of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test conducted by the Japanese government.
They translate documents and prepare professionals for business meetings in Japan or with Japanese people.
But with this structured learning of language comes an understanding of Japanese culture. To communicate with a Japanese businessman, one must know business etiquette and seating arrangements. When students reach the highest level of JLPT, they are taught by Japanese freelancers and in communicating with them, pick up on conversational habits and accents.
Every year, SNRC participates in the Japan Habba, a merging of Japanese and Indian culture, where Indians prepare and perform a variety of Japanese arts, and vice versa.
Students from SNRC have staged kabuki (Japanese dance-drama), bunraku (Japanese puppet theatre), recited haiku, and sung Japanese songs to karaoke, and in return, Japanese students put up Bollywood dances and did Kannada recitations.
This coming together of cultures is topped off with the presence of both Japanese and Indian food.
Srividya says there are three important practices that students learn at SNRC. The first is origami, the Japanese art of folding paper. The instructions are given in basic Japanese, for language practice. It is also said to aid concentration, a skill important to the Japanese.
The second is shodo or calligraphy, the design of lettering. With calligraphy, specific attention is paid to the spacing of the text on the page. It is a skill connected to a clear mind and the ability to plan within available space, another skill important to the Japanese.
The third is ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arrangement. It is minimal, and is connected to the Japanese custom of not stressing on detail (both in decoration and conversation), leaving the real value as an undertone.
In learning these skills related to the art and culture of Japan, students understand the Japanese as a people, and their practices and beliefs.
(Sakuraa Nihongo Resource Centre is at 9th Cross, 4th Main. Call 42628200).