Loretta Scott is an American graduate student at a Japanese university, who is studying business on a scholarship from the Ministry of Education, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). Loretta has been studying Japanese for a number of years and has a very popular YouTube channel called KemushiChan that documents her adventures in Japan and strategies for learning Japanese. Although her videos are mainly aimed at providing Japanese language learning tips or information for foreigners in Japan, they could also be an excellent way for Japanese students to learn English because they are so visually engaging and include words in Japanese. Loretta’s experiences demonstrate how young people from any country can become fluent in another language and realize their dreams of studying or living abroad. American View interviewed Loretta to hear her thoughts on language learning and studying abroad.
American View (AV): You’ve been back and forth to Japan a number of times over the years. What made you finally decide to take the leap and move to Japan?
Loretta Scott: Well, I had studied so much Japanese, and traveled to Japan, but I still had never really lived here, and you’re always missing something if you haven’t spent time in a country. So I felt it was time for me to jump in. And the MEXT scholarship made it financially feasible to come over. I tested into the graduate degree program at my university so I’ll be here for three years. After that I’ll just be going wherever the opportunities are, either here or in the States.
AV: How has your experience been so far?
Scott: It was hard because I was kind of disappointed in myself at first. I’ve been studying Japanese for fifteen years. I’ve known Japanese people forever. I’ve stayed in Japan before. And yet, there are so many things I still have to learn. So the first month was frustrating, but once I started letting go and going out and meeting with people, that’s when I realized I could do it. So now I’m pretty happy.
AV: What are some of your goals here in Tokyo?
Scott: Well, I want to do a lot of things. Of course, I want to graduate. I want to wear a kimono. [Laughter] More importantly, I want to create a group of peers here. In New York, I feel like I always had a job because I had a network and I could always find a job that’s relevant to what I like. I want to be able to do the same in Japan.
AV: You’ve been studying Japanese for a while now. What first sparked your interest in Japanese language?
Scott: Like most American students of Japanese, it was the pop culture influence. But also, when I was a freshman in 2002, right around when Pokémon and other things like that were really starting to take off, they started offering Japanese at my high school. I studied it all through high school and then two years in college, so that was six formal years of study. And then after that I started working as a Japanese teaching assistant. After college I did the U.S. Department of State’s Critical Language Scholarship program. I’ve basically been self-studying since then. Now I’m here in Japan and picking it back up again. So in total, it’s about fifteen years of Japanese.
AV: How did you manage to keep studying Japanese for so long without giving up?
Scott: I had really quick access to Japan, so I had the opportunity to use the language in a real-world context. When I was in high school we had an exchange student from Japan and she joined the marching band. So because I was in Japanese class and also in marching band, they paired me up with her and I was kind of like her helper at school. So I had to use the language I was studying with a real person. And then I went to Japan three years later. After that, almost every two years I had the opportunity to go back to Japan. So I’ve had a constant incentive to keep studying.
AV: Tell us about your YouTube channel.
Scott: I started it in my sophomore year, right after I had finished all the Japanese classes that my college had to offer. After seeing other Japanese-language videos on YouTube, I felt something was lacking. I wanted to combine the sketch comedy style of YouTube videos with the concept of “meta-learning.” In other words, teaching yourself how to get to the level where you want to be. So I did sketches about how to speak, how to write, and how to listen.
I’m still working on it, but I’m starting to change the focus a little bit. Right now I’m trying to make the idea of going abroad seem less daunting. It’s the same idea of how to teach yourself how to do something, but instead of language it’s about how to do basic things like signing a lease or how to uproot your life when you’re already well-established in another country, and other things more geared towards working adults.
AV: What advice would you give to someone who’s thinking about studying abroad but maybe a little on the fence about it?
Scott: I think they should try something brief. If you’re not sure about making a big move, just try visiting if possible. That’s what I did. I would come for a few months every year, and then it came to a point where I realized that I couldn’t stand being away from Japan. But it’s definitely different living abroad than it is looking at a place from abroad. The only real way to experience it is to try it out for a while at least.