Japanese Department Review

A review of Stuyvesant’s Japanese department.

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Since Chie Helinski is the only teacher in the Japanese department, the Japanese classes are built on a foundation of trust and good rapport with her over the years. Japanese offers students a special sense of continuity and fosters a long-lasting, tight-knit community, a rarity within Stuyvesant’s diverse classes and student body of over 3,200 students. This sense of community is developed through events that Helinski and a leading group of her upperclassmen students organize, including Japandemonium, an event where students participate in a series of team-based lighthearted competitions with the goal of building camaraderie among the grades, and the Japanese Honor Society, a merit-based society with annual inauguration ceremonies and special performances by the seniors. 

Helinski’s Japanese classroom is a fast-paced and demanding learning environment, as the Japanese writing system consists of two alphabets, Hiragana and Katakana, as well as Chinese characters known as Kanji. Students are expected to absorb large amounts of information in short periods of time and manage multiple project-based assignments at around the same time. Additionally, the grammar can be quite difficult to digest for English speakers. Although the class is known for being notoriously challenging, Helinski does attempt to set up a variety of support systems such as weekly AIS sessions. Students feel prepared for the Japanese Regents and AP Japanese exams, because Helinski goes above and beyond the curriculum and gives assessments that are often more difficult than standardized tests. 

To further enrich this department, there needs to be stronger communication between students and Helsinki. In the current environment, struggling students, especially underclassmen, can feel left behind after falling slightly behind on content. Although it is important that students take a greater initiative to approach Helinski with questions, it can sometimes be intimidating to do so when individual students feel they are lagging behind an otherwise smoothly flowing class. 

Overall, the Japanese department not only enhances one’s language skills, but also broadens cultural horizons, fostering a deeper sense of appreciation and understanding of Japanese heritage, traditions, and societal nuances.