Nobuko Koyama, an assistant professor in East Asian Languages & Cultures, is excited about the many advantages and the new challenges of working at UC Davis as the Japanese Language Program Coordinator after working at Temple’s Japan campus for seven years.

As a specialist in discourse analysis, Koyama’s research and pedagogy are intrinsically connected in an effort to apply linguistics to teaching literature. “I’m interested in the development of critical reading skills, and I consider the classroom the most important site for understanding how these skills develop by trying out a variety of approaches and exercises,” said Koyama. “We collected a lot of data in Japan and now have the exciting opportunity of applying it in the classroom.”

Koyama received her Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and brings extensive experience teaching JSL and JFL to UC Davis after establishing a Japanese language major at Temple University Japan Campus in 2010. She also noted a great difference in teaching Japanese as a Second Language (JSL) versus Japanese as a Foreign Language (JFL).

“There are a lot of new challenges teaching Japanese here,” said Koyama. “In Japan I mostly taught JSL students and here I mostly teach JFL students. Also, the Japanese campus was in the middle of a big city where students learned vernacular from immersion in the language and culture. Here we have to create that experience artificially.”  In addition, Koyama did note the benefits of the Internet in engaging and fostering student interest in Japanese culture.

Although still getting a sense of her new role here in the language department, Koyama couldn’t help smiling about the comfort of her new surroundings. “The people here are so helpful and I have such a large community compared to my previous department where I did not even have an office,” she said, looking around at her cozy office in Sproul Hall. “The big city is nice for convenience,” said Koyama, “but I really appreciate the safe community here at Davis as well as the wonderful bicycle culture.”

Koyama talked about getting back to the basics in teaching Japanese 1. “I’ve taught how to teach Japanese to high school teachers and have found that I really learn so much from other teachers and writers,” said Koyama. Her students look at the text from a variety of different roles and perspectives, working in multifaceted exercises in which they engage the text as a group and an individual.

In her article, “Grounding and Deixis: A Comprehensive Approach to the Grounding Phenomenon in Japanese Narrative,” Koyama analyzes precisely the moments in which the literary text provides signals to critical reading faculties. “I want to define critical reading skills more precisely,” she said, “and get a better sense of how and when these skills develop in the classroom.”

Koyama looks forward to renewing these research interests alongside her roles as teacher and program coordinator in a thriving academic environment in the UC Davis language department.