Meet Kaitlin Hawes, a student who is learning to ask why and say a whole lot more in both Japanese and Korean through her Bachelor of Languages.
For Kaitlin Hawes, it was love at first sight.
“I saw this degree when I was in Year 11 and I just knew, ‘That is what I want to do.’ And I went full steam ahead to get here.”
Now halfway through her Bachelor of Languages, with double majors in Korean and Japanese and a minor in linguistics, she says her passion hasn’t waned.
“I love it to pieces! Everything I learn, I want to learn, and there’s nothing that’s boring. You have freedom to do multiple languages too. You can do Sanskrit, you can do Urdu, you can do Mongolian. It’s incredible! Where else are you going to find that? It’s just the best.”
Kaitlin says her attraction to the Bachelor of Languages lies in one word.
“It’s about the ‘why’,” she says.
“I really got into Japanese language in high school and I had that need to know why a verb is a verb, and how sentences are structured, and how it’s different in different languages. I wanted to really delve into the study of language and linguistics and be able to teach or explain why it is how it is. It helps you get a better understanding of the language.”
She says the exchange opportunities available as part of the program are also “incredibly appealing”. She plans to spend a year in Korea in 2014, to help her work towards her goal of teaching English in high schools in Japan or Korea, and then further down the track, professional interpreting in a legal or medical field.
The language learning environment at ANU is worlds apart from high school, she says, where she studied Japanese by distance education and taught herself Korean.
“There’s an Asia Pacific Student Society which is exceptionally good, and a kabuki club (traditional Japanese theatre), and there’s also a student language exchange where you can talk one-on-one with Korean students or Japanese students at ANU for conversation practice. It’s also a friendship circle, especially for the international students. We all go out to karaoke together and things like that.
“And then you have Menzies Library, which has one of the largest collections of Asian books. It’s such a huge database, and there’s a whole floor in any language you want like Laotian, Urdu, Arabic, and all the ancient scripts. There’s shelf upon shelf upon shelf of random Japanese and Korean books. It really freaked me out when I first went there because I’d never seen anything like it before. It was so overwhelming.”
Kaitlin says the current popularity of Korean popular culture is sure to see enrolments in her classes increase.
“I think it will boom,” she says. “Our lecturers have been saying, ‘How does it feel to be the forerunners of Korean language?’”
However, she says it’s the quality of teaching which will be the enduring drawcard for language students.
“When you’re doing your research for linguistics or cultural studies, the book you have is usually written by somebody in the faculty. You know you can just go to see them, and ask them questions. You’re quoting people in your essays and one’s your lecturer, and one’s your lecturer from last semester. These are leading people in their discipline and I’m at university with them, I’m being lectured by them on a continuous basis. They literally wrote the book on this subject!”
For Kaitlin, there really is nowhere else in Australia she’d recommend for Asian-language students.
“ANU has a leading status in Asia, so if you want to work in Asia, saying you went to ANU, the national university, it’s very good for connections.”