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Community Highlights: Meet Eriko Yoshioka of Eriko the Japanese Tutor

Today we’d like to introduce you to Eriko Yoshioka. 

Hi Eriko, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
Growing up in Osaka, Japan, my parents made me go to a cram school twice a week. Most middle schoolers did not look forward to going to a cram school, but surprisingly I really enjoyed it, especially when it was English class. I have always loved learning English, and I wanted to practice more and immerse myself in the language. This led me to look for an opportunity to study abroad, and I decided to apply to some programs. 

Right after I was accepted to one of the programs to go to a high school in the U.S., my mother was diagnosed with cancer. My parents decided that I needed to stay in Japan. My mother passed away the following year. Since my father was supporting me and my brother by himself, I looked for a scholarship to be able to afford an education in the U.S. Fortunately, I was able to become one of the lucky 20 Japanese students awarded with a scholarship to a university in Georgia. This was one of the most nerve-racking, but exciting moments in my life! 

After graduating from high school, I came to America with nothing but one suitcase and a silly dream of becoming a Japanese interpreter for rock bands. The first school I attended was Georgia Southwestern State University in Americus, Georgia. After I started living in the U.S., my plan of becoming an interpreter changed when I realized it would take me a long time to improve my English to the level of an interpreter. I decided that I wanted to contribute my knowledge of English by going back to Japan and teaching English to Japanese children in my home country. Little did I know, I would be doing the complete opposite! 

I graduated with a B.S. in Education from the University of Georgia and started my teaching career as a Japanese teacher in 1994. I taught Japanese at an elementary school in the Fulton County School System and taught middle and high schoolers through the Georgia Public Broadcasting Service. I was actively involved in the State of Georgia’s Elementary School Foreign Language Model Program where I learned the newest teaching methods and techniques in language education. When I was teaching at school, I actively engaged with developing a Japanese curriculum and was one of the Japanese presenters at the Foreign Language Association of Georgia Conference. 

I gained a lot of professional experience by teaching Japanese at local schools for 5 years. Due to this experience, I developed a love for teaching. Because of my genuine enjoyment for teaching, as well as my yearning to become more culturally aware, I decided to start my own Japanese language classes. I did not give up on becoming an interpreter either. As side jobs, I work as a Japanese medical interpreter at Emory University Hospital and WellStar Health System. I also enjoy working as a Japanese voiceover artist. 

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Eleven years ago, I made a decision to go back to work and financially support my family. Being a stay-at-home mom for 10 years, it was very difficult for me to find a job, and I realized that it was impossible for me to take care of three children while simultaneously working for a company. These obstacles turned into a great opportunity for me. Having years of experience in teaching Japanese and being a native Japanese speaker, I decided to start my own Japanese language classes. 

We’ve been impressed with Eriko the Japanese Tutor, but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
My business was established in 2010. I offer private and group lessons both online and in person. I am teaching anyone from elementary school students to adults, and I welcome all levels and ages. Homeschoolers are welcome, too. I can also help with the IB Japanese and Japanese Language Proficiency tests. Since I have lived in the U.S. over 30 years, I have good interpersonal communication skills in both Japanese and English. With my professional experience and knowledge, I can customize lessons for students to help them reach their full potential. 

I have taught over 100 classes in the last 11 years! I have helped a lot of high school and college students to improve their grades in school. Many of my students continue to learn Japanese in college or on their own after completing the curriculum with me. Currently, seven of my former students are living and working in Japan! 

Recently, my daughter graduated from Georgia Japanese Language School and is following in my footsteps. She is assisting me with my Japanese classes and teaching beginner elementary and middle school students. 

I create a classroom environment where all students feel comfortable making mistakes. I believe that making mistakes and learning from them is one of the best ways to learn a language. I try to provide a lot of opportunities for students to speak in Japanese in my classes. Participating with a fluent speaker who can give real-time feedback allows students to learn faster and accurately speak the language. 

So maybe we end on discussing what matters most to you and why?
What matters the most to me is that my students are not only learning the language but also enjoying the learning process and the culture associated with it. It really makes me happy when my students tell me about their favorite J-pop songs, Anime, and Japanese food. For example, one of my students told me that he went to his favorite sushi restaurant and was able to order by speaking Japanese to the waiter. Watching him being so excited and motivated made me realize that my student’s passion for learning about Japan drives me to work harder and become a better Japanese teacher. 

Being a teacher is a rewarding job, I enjoy sharing my knowledge and being a vital part of my students’ education. I would be very happy if I could continue to bridge the gap between the two countries by introducing the language and culture from my home country. 

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