Funaki teaches importance of outside experience

Sophomore Yutaro Funaki teaches his Elementary Japanese class. “Because he grew up (in Japan), he knows the nuances of the language better than a textbook can sometimes convey,” said junior Trevor Kurzhal.

by Associate Life Editor Monday Sanderson

“The most important experiences are from outside of the classroom.”

Sophomore Yutaro Funaki is an international student who arrived at UNA during the summer of 2014. He said his learning comes from his cultural experiences in Florence.

He is also the Elementary Japanese Critical Language Partner.

“There was an opportunity for me to learn English better and to also help others,” he said. “I want to help (the students) learn Japanese because I know how important it is to learn a second or third language.”

Funaki said a friend of his recommended he apply for the job.

“Yui Tahara was a previous Japanese partner, and she’s heading back to Japan,” he said. “I asked her about it, and she told me I could do it.”

Funaki said he was nervous when he first started teaching, but now he feels confident.

Funaki’s teaching style is not strict, said junior Trevor Kurzhal.

“He’s very patient with us as we try to grasp a language that is simply not made from the Latin roots from which we derive our language,” he said. “So, because of this easy going style, it helps us continue on learning with eagerness as we pursue something that is quite outside of the realm of normal learning.”

Funaki said he had to reteach the class basic grammar rules.

“When I first started teaching the second level, they didn’t know a lot,” he said. “They just knew some of the alphabet and had memorized some of the phrases.”

He said he makes sure the class reviews the previous lesson before starting a new one.

Kurzhal said having a native speaker who is also a college student has helped him in learning the language.

“I love having a fellow college student as my teacher,” he said. “It makes the environment more communicative than that of an adult just lecturing me in a language. Because he grew up (in Japan), he knows the nuances of the language better than a textbook can sometimes convey.”

Funaki said other than being a teacher he is also a Navigator, a UNA ambassador. He said he became one because of the first person he met at UNA.

“When I first arrived, a Navigator came and picked me up,” he said. “He was American, but he listened to me carefully and tried to understand (me).”

He worked hard to become a Navigator, said Coordinator for International Success Cala Flippo.

“Yutaro began his studies as an English as a Second Language student,” she said. “He was a hard worker and finished well. He is willing to translate for our office when needed, and I think has had a fun time being an ambassador for us.”

Funaki said when he does not have work he swims or plays soccer.

“I’m part of the men’s soccer club,” he said. “The first friend I made (here) played soccer, so I joined them one day.”

Flippo said he is a leader on the soccer team and encourages other students to join.

Funaki said he is not good at playing soccer, but he still enjoys the game.

These activities are good ways to make friends, he said.

Funaki said he is glad he chose UNA as his school.

“When I found UNA, I noticed it wasn’t that big, but the nature was beautiful,” he said. “Since it’s not that big of a school, I thought it would be easier to make new friends and study English. I have the chance to (become more involved in American culture) than if I went to a big school.”