Just try, try. [IGS Professor Keiso Tatsukawa]

Q. Could you please briefly introduce yourself?
A. My name is Tatsukawa Keiso. I was born and raised in Hiroshima, and I have never been out of Hiroshima, so you can call me a native of Hiroshima. After I graduated from university in Hiroshima, I became a senior high school English teacher. Then, I was asked to teach at a junior college. After that, I was transferred to a university in Okayama. Several years later, I was lucky enough to come over to Hiroshima University to work for FLARE (Institute for Foreign Language Research and Education). I served as director there for six years. Four years ago, I was asked to work for IGS as well, so I joined the committee to start up IGS.

Q What is your research subject?
A. My specialty is teaching English as a second or foreign language, especially as a foreign language. I am interested in finding and doing research on how we can teach a foreign language, in this case, English, productively and effectively, or enjoyably. I have especially done research in listening; how learners can listen or understand a second language well, and, from the viewpoint of a teacher, how we should develop the listening proficiency of students or of learners, and how we can evaluate students’ performances.
For my doctoral research, I did a lot of work on Communication Strategies. We often have communication breakdowns, but we need to overcome and repair them or avoid those difficulties, and communication strategies such as rephrasing can help us. So, I wrote a dissertation on communication strategies and how we can develop especially high school students’ communication strategies. That is my research interest: teaching English as a second language or foreign language, or what we call TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), or TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language).

Q Why did you choose this field, specifically communication strategies?
Because English is my second language, so I still feel much more comfortable if I speak or write in Japanese. When I was a boy, I wanted to master another language as well, but I often encountered difficulties, and I always wondered how I could improve my second language, English. That was the beginning.

Q. What do you think is the most important thing when students study English as a second language?
A. You should not give up communicating with other people, or with listeners, or “interlocutors.” If we just try, then we can always think of ideas of how we can overcome, repair, or avoid difficulties in communication. Just try, try. Interlocutors will also try to understand you. They will clarify what you want to say. Also, you can clarify what you are saying yourself. So, it is a kind of cooperative effort. Communication is a kind of cooperative effort.

Q. What do you think is the most important thing to study here at Hiroshima University?
A. You should find something that you want to study deeply, or that you want to stick to. Nobody, including teachers or parents, can give you ‘your’ interest. You should find it yourself. And we can say the same thing about the research field, or about the title or topic of your dissertation for your graduation. Teachers cannot give you the topics, because unless you get interested in that particular topic, you will not be able to continue your research to complete your thesis. So, I just want to say to IGS students, or any students in fact—you should find your own topic. You are adults, not high school students or junior high school students, but adults, so you should find your own topics yourself.

Q. And do you have any advice for finding a topic that you really like?
A. While you are a university student, read as many books as you can, meet as many people as you can, and take as many trips as you can.

Q. What kind of ability or life skills do you want each student to acquire until they graduate?
A. I think that acquiring social skills or communication skills is very important. Most of my students are very smart, and we can brush up on professional skills year by year. But acquiring good social skills can be very difficult, and teachers or parents cannot teach these skills easily. Students need to learn social and communication skills themselves, by meeting a lot of people, or taking a lot of trips, or reading a lot of books. In addition, I want students to remember that we humans are social beings. We cannot live alone. Nobody can live alone. We need to live in society. The smallest unit of society is the family. Even if you stay single, you still have to work with other people. So, having social and communication skills is crucial.