If you always honestly face your interests, your future will reveal itself


Nanami Kanatsuna enrolled at Meiji Gakuin University wanting to someday find a job that involves English, such as interpreting or working for an international organization, but she says she now has very different goals for the future. Her time as a university student spent in pursuit of her interests provides hints as to how students can find their own goals for their future.

Nanami Kanatsuna Fourth-year student, Department of English, Faculty of Letters Nanami Kanatsuna enrolled in the Department of English with the goal of doing English-related work, such as interpreting or working at an international organization. Through volunteer activities such as international exchange, notetaking for the hearing impaired, and learning sign language, she developed a strong interest in language itself. Her hobbies include listening to music and watching comedy shows. She is a fan of the J-pop band Kujira Yoru no Machi and the comedy duo Rainbow.

Repulsion, interests, and questions

I have always loved literature, and I’ve read books from English-speaking countries and many others. It was in my third year of high school that I began to feel more than just a liking for English, through my first encounter with the movie Suffragette. That film is about the women’s suffrage movement in twentieth-century England, including scenes of women participating in demonstrations and their heartbreaking cries as they were beaten by police. Many scenes were so difficult to watch, I couldn’t finish the entire movie. I wanted to know what I needed to do to better understand the nature of their suffering. By improving my language skills, could I comprehend the feelings that lay behind their words? The repulsion I felt from what I saw in that movie, along with a strong interest in what it depicted and the questions that arose from watching it, are what led me to English.

Wanting to try something new between study sessions

The world of American literature, which I discovered through studying English, provided me with a series of new experiences. In my first year at college, my interest in gender issues led me to a focus on learning about the gay community, but in retrospect, a major turning point in my life was my encounter with volunteer notetaking, something I started just as something new to try between my own study sessions. As a volunteer, I would attend a class with a hearing-impaired student and take notes on a computer, converting what the instructor was saying into text. I spent spring semester practicing learning skills, mainly typing, so I didn’t start actual notetaking until the fall semester.

I was incredibly nervous the first time I did it, and I remember not being able to keep up at all with what the instructor was saying. But my typing skills improved with each session, and I started to get a better grasp of the course material. In the end it became a very meaningful and interesting activity for me, because not only was I able to help a fellow student, I was able to learn something by participating in their class.

Being unable to describe the atmosphere in the room

One thing that bothered me, however, was the time lag that hearing-disabled students experience. One example is when students in the classroom laugh in response to something that was said. When everyone is laughing, the atmosphere in the room at that moment is important, but it takes time to express that in words on a screen, so I couldn’t get that information across in time to prevent a kind of time lag.

After some time worrying how I could resolve that problem, I realized sign language might be an answer. The idea first came to me when I saw friends at the Student Support Center having fun conversing in sign language. I was struck by how expressive sign language could be. Since it is silent, if you don’t understand something you have to say so immediately, and there’s no room for “reading between the lines.” I started studying sign language so much I found myself skipping lunch. When I encountered sign language, I engaged with it in comparison with spoken languages like Japanese and English, and I found it to be the most interesting language I had ever encountered.

Reaffirming the diversity of communication through sign language

I got very deep into sign language, striving to learn at least ten new words from my sign dictionary every day. To practice fingerspelling, which is an important supplement to signed words, while taking baths I would sign the lyrics to popular songs. I studied hard every day, and while it was a lot to learn, I’ll never forget the joy I felt when I was first able to sign even everyday phrases like “thank you” and “good morning” in daily conversation. It was also thanks to sign language that I became able to quickly tell a student I was taking notes for that the instructor was calling on them.

In my second year I had the opportunity to enroll in a course along with a deaf friend. I am still enrolled in that class, and now I’m able to use sign language to discuss what we’re learning. There’s no such thing as “reading the room” or “taking things in context” in sign language. You either get across what you’re trying to communicate, or you don’t. If you find yourself unable to get your point across, however, you can write down what you’re trying to say, or in some cases you can use facial expressions to communicate. Sign language thus allowed me to reaffirm the diversity of communication.

As part of my English literature studies, I am studying sociolinguistics in Professor Shoko Ikuta’s seminar in the Department of English. Sociolinguistics deals with a wide range of topics. We study the structures, functions, and uses of language, such as the number of times a given phrase appears in a conversation and for what purpose. Currently, I am learning about narrative structures in the language of female college students when they expose their vulnerabilities. By dispassionately analyzing from the perspective of sociolinguistics not only English literature, but also the many forms of language I have encountered through notetaking and sign language, I have developed a habit of thinking about backgrounds and intentions behind words. After having such in-depth encounters with language in my student life, I came up with the idea of starting a career as a speech pathologist.

The most important thing is honestly facing your interests

Speech–language pathologists are specialists related to speaking, listening, and eating. They are professionals who provide training and guidance to support people with disabilities related to speech, hearing, or swallowing. I am currently planning to enter a vocational school to become a certified speech pathologist after graduation. While I started volunteer notetaking just as something new to do between study sessions, it led me to sign language and sociolinguistics, and my interest in English became an interest in language itself. If you always honestly face your interests, your future will reveal itself. I feel that I was able to learn this during my university life. There isn’t much left of my university life, so I hope to treasure each remaining day, looking forward to a graduation ceremony where I will have a big smile on my face, glad that I chose Meiji Gakuin.