Q & A with Zoe Kaufmann – teacher of Japanese


Zoe Kaufmann

Zoe Kaufmann first began formal language study when she was in Grade 5, and has been in love with the VSL and its languages since!

She fondly remembers her first few lessons at the VSL. At the age of 10, one of her friends dragged her along to the Year 7 Japanese class at the Matthew Flinders campus.

 Zoe was going to start halfway through the year, and having had no experience studying Japanese since kindergarten, she was somewhat bewildered at the thought of jumping in the deep end of a high school class. Luckily, her mother (a karate-ka) and her brother (who had previously studied the language) were keen to join her at the VSL and gave her much-needed study partners through the initial stages of learning hiragana and katakana.

She remembers her first teacher fondly, particularly the fun games she would play with her students. Her teacher went to endless lengths to assist her as she caught up to her classmates who had started half a year before her. Her classmates were often a little bit noisy but she loved the vibrant atmosphere in the classroom and the palpable passion every single classmate had for the language. Zoe adored every new piece of grammar that she came across and took (almost) every new piece of vocabulary to heart. She never missed an opportunity to partake in a cultural event and outside of class she watched hours and hours of Japanese cartoons (all in the name of study, of course).

Zoe studied for four years before leaving to continue her Japanese study in her day school. During this time she visited Japan twice, first for a three month student exchange and later for a four week study trip.

Two years later, however, she was back, not to study Japanese, but to instead begin her journey learning Mandarin Chinese. She studied Chinese for two years, loving the exposure to the country’s rich culture and history. She delighted in learning Mandarin’s five tones and the many Chinese characters she came across, which also helped her immensely with her study of Japanese kanji. Zoe went on to study in the VSL’s Matthew Flinders VCE class for a year, after which she took Chinese as a major at Deakin University. Zoe has plans to travel to China sometime in the next few years to deepen her knowledge.

Zoe returned to the VSL’s Year 7-10 Japanese class the following year to act as a language assistant. Welcomed back with open arms, she felt incredibly privileged to work with her supervising teacher who had a wealth of knowledge and teaching ideas. Zoe’s passion for the Japanese language burned brighter than ever and she felt at home sharing her knowledge about the language and country she loved.



Origami in the classroom

Following her supervising teacher’s retirement at the start of 2015, Zoe took over the reins of the class and has never enjoyed teaching more! She loves spending time coming up with novel lesson ideas and cultural experiences that spark passion in her own students, much like her first teacher inspired her at the beginning of her own journey all those years ago. She says:

 “My favourite Japanese cuisine is definitely okonomiyaki – savoury vegetable pancakes made with cabbage. I have fond memories of sitting around my host family’s table and drawing words in sauce on our pancakes with my host sisters!

 My favourite TV show in Japanese is Detective Conan, a crime/mystery show that has been airing on Japanese TV for 20 years. I love trying to solve the mysteries before the next episode comes out (sometimes I even guess correctly!).

 My favourite app is JED – an Android Japanese-English dictionary. Boring, yes, but a good dictionary is a language-learner’s best friend! My other favourite tool is Google, of course. I don’t know how anyone managed to learn a language before the internet!”


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