In Turkey, Public Education Centers operating under the Directorate General for Lifelong Learning within the Ministry of National Education provide 22 different language courses besides various hobby and vocational courses. I work as a Japanese teacher at Ankara Çankaya Public Education Center, one of 15 public education centres in Turkey with a Japanese course.
Enrollment of these courses is quite high due to the fact that it is free of charge and that anyone who is literate over the age of 14 can register. Pre-registration is possible throughout the year and the courses start when enough students register. While officially the minimum attendance is 12 people, at least 30 people are expected to register because although the enrollment rate is high, the participation rates of students appear to be quite low. Of the 30 people who registered, at least 5 do not start courses at all and at least 5 do not continue courses after the first week.
Japanese A1 level course duration is designed as 136-course hours, unlike languages that use the Latin alphabet which last 120-course hours. We have completed A1 level in a total of 17 weeks, including 4 lesson hours two days a week. Although the program of foreign language courses is based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, I think I need to make some arrangements because I teach Japanese to adults. According to Knowles, adults join the educational processes with a larger and more diverse life experience than children and young people, resulting in more individual differences. For this reason, the experiences of adults should be seen as a source in the educational process. In accordance with the andragogic approach, I conduct a questionnaire on the first day of the course to reshape the curriculum based on the experiences of adults. I try to understand their motivation, readiness, expectations and figure out what they want to know, why and how. After the questionnaire, I talk about my own program and ask where they want to contribute. However, adult learners who are accustomed to teacher-centred instruction are having difficulty with how to achieve this involvement. It makes me think there's a difference between being an adult and being an adult learner.
I have students of various ages and professional groups, mostly university students or university graduates. Unfortunately, most of them are enrolled in the course without any knowledge of the Japanese writing system, therefore at least 5 students leave the course after the first writing lesson on the grounds that it is very difficult. One of the reasons for not attending the course is the college students' exam weeks. Students who are absent during the exam week lose their motivation after the exam week. In my experience, students who attend classes on a regular basis are public employees who do not have to work overtime and retirees over the age of 60. What they all have in common is the fear of making mistakes in speaking exercises. I'm trying to make them feel safe in the classroom to overcome that fear. For instance, I open a WhatsApp group, share events in Ankara which are about Japan and Japanese culture and encourage them to participate in events together. They feel safe as they begin to communicate with each other and don't hesitate in speaking exercises. I want them to say together the words that are difficult to pronounce to avoid embarrassment. Other than that, I don't want them doing their speaking exercises with the same people all the time. I organize in-class activities that allow everyone to communicate with everyone. Through these kinds of methods, Japanese speaking problem can be solved in a short period of time, but the Japanese writing problem continues throughout the course. It takes a lot of repetition to learn the Japanese writing system. When I started teaching, I thought they would repeat it at home, but it didn't take me long to realize that would not be the case. It doesn't seem right to expect an adult who goes to school or work, who has to take care of her family and child at home, to go home and study. Students ' working hours are already too long and they're trying to take time out in the evening and learn Japanese, so it's very normal that they can't study. For this reason, we have to do writing exercises in class. I turn up Japanese musicians ' songs while they are doing writing practice in class. The students said they felt comfortable as if they studied at home. Although the study in a comfortable environment, I can't reach the teaching level I have been aiming for. Writing is lagging behind speech and comprehension, so I recommend phone apps and ask them to browse on the way but I don’t think they do. I guess, in Turkey, adults aren't used to learning with technology yet. Instead of just recommending, I should teach them how to use it. However, I also noticed that when teaching language to adults, unlike children, they showed resistance to the culture of the language being learned. I devoted one hour a week to explain Japanese cultural elements such as their daily lives, eating and drinking habits, sports and arts to overcome this obstacle. I'm trying to make it easier for students to learn languages by connecting them with Japanese culture.
I actually have a role on both sides of adult education. While teaching Japanese to adults, as an adult learner, I am attending a master's degree program at Lifelong Learning and Adult Education Department at Ankara University. I get the chance to experience the differences and similarities between theoretical knowledge in school and real life. Most days, I feel like I join the class as a student, not as a teacher. I feel compelled to constantly question my methods, my communication, my field competence. Just because I intend to teach doesn't mean that I can teach or that I know why I can't teach. While I strive to take into account the individual characteristics of all students, to organize activities in accordance with their physical ( eye disorder, chronic disease etc.) and psychological ( shyness, stress etc.) condition, to provide a safe environment and to keep their motivation at the highest level, I think I educate myself the most. Lucky for me, I learn something new from my adult students in every class. I learn to be an adult educator from adult learners.
Keywords: adult education, adult learner, adult educator, language, life skills