Get to Know Your Professors: An Interview with Sophie Muller

“Get To Know Your Professors” is a series of articles to introduce our fantastic teachers on campus. If you have any requests for interviews with your favorite teachers, feel free to contact us.

Interviewer: Shiori Hamasako

SH: Could you tell l me a little bit about yourself?

SM: My name is Sophie Muller, and I am from France. I’ve been in Japan for about 7 years now, I left for a couple of months in 2010. I’m working at Chukyo University and that is my main job. I also teach extensive reading and listening in English at Nagoya University of Foreign Studies.

SH: What is your field?

Sophie Muller teaches OC, Media Literacy, and History of Cultural Exchange in Eibei

SM: I actually have two Master’s degrees. I did one in Linguistics, in generative grammar. Then I realized that I would never get a job with just that degree, so what I did was to do another one. I did my second  Master’s in teaching foreign languages and cultures. It was not just French, and that’s why I chose it because I wanted to teach English at some point.

I love linguistics, but I also liked learning what it was like teaching other language systems, and it was a wonderful experience. The Master’s was  provided by a distance college, so I was also teaching part-time because I wanted more experience.

SH: What made you decide to come and work in Japan?

SM: It was more an opportunity than a plan . I was looking for a job outside of France. Then I found my university had a partnership with Nagoya University of Foreign Languages, and they were looking for a French teacher.

But my final decision was a Japanese cultural class that I took in high school in the US. The teacher was amazing, and I just loved the way she introduced Japanese culture. My teacher was American and married to a Japanese man. She taught Japanese traditional culture, such as Ikebana, wearing Kimono, and cooking, and she cooked a lot of food, too.

SH: How do you like it here?

SM: I really LOVE living in Japan. I actually left and went to the US for a couple of months, but things didn’t work the way I wanted, so I came back to Japan. I enjoy teaching here, and I love working with Japanese students.

SH: Do you remember the first lesson you did in Japan? What was it like?

SM: Yes I do. I do remember the first class I did in Japan! I remember I was stressed because I don’t speak Japanese, so I prepared the full lesson in French, and the class was for beginners. They had  never even studied French before! Therefore I used gestures, facial expressions a lot, and kept on repeating so that they could understand more.

SH: Do you find some differences between students in Japan and those in the other countries?

SM: The only difference that I noticed is the delay between the moment I ask students to do something or ask a question, and the moment students do it or answer it. That time, the couple of seconds, is very different.

What I did in the beginning was instead of just waiting, I asked the question again and again because I wanted students to participate and be active.  But if you give them some time, they start doing things, you just need to give them a little more time. That is what I noticed as a difference.

It’s the biggest and only one because once you get to know Japanese students better, they are actually as interesting, as intelligent, and as enthusiastic as any other students in different countries. I have taught Americans, Italians, Germans and people from Holland, and New Zealanders  before.

Everywhere else, most of the students just answer right away, so when I first taught Japanese students, I though they didn’t understand me.

SH: [So what do Japanese students need?]

SM: I would say … student empowerment. I always want students to be active in their learning, to be thinking about what they are doing, and to be more involved in the class. That is how I actually learned English.

SH: Is there anything that you have struggled / struggle with now with while living in Japan?

SM: For me, the answer is No. Since I don’t speak Japanese, people treat me nicely explaining things slowly and easily. That makes my life much simpler. I would be frustrated if I was fluent in Japanese like my other friends. When they talk to people in Japanese, people are surprised and say “Oh I don’t speak English!” though my friends actually just spoke to them in Japanese. That would be frustrating. I don’t speak Japanese, so I have no problem with that.

SH: Have you experienced any culture shock?

SM: Honestly, I had no real culture shock except good ones. When I came to Japan in 2005, I was very stressed. I was living in Paris before, and my life was very stressful. Things were really rough and I was even afraid of people in general, and couldn’t go outside.

I remember the first time I took the subway in Japan, and I thought… “Oh… this is paradise!”

It was very quiet, clean, and people were not aggressive like people in France. You know, Japanese people are more quiet and peaceful.

Because of what was happening before I came, I felt like Japan was the country I could live in! Tensions here on daily basis are so much more less than  in France and the US.

SH: Are there some aspects of life here that you prefer in comparison to the way things happen in your home country?

SM: The way people interact is much more peaceful than what I’ve experienced in other countries.

Even drunk people are peaceful in Japan, they are usually not aggressive, not like some people in France! They maybe speak loud, sing or dance, but never fight.

SH: Are there some aspects of life here that you disapprove of in comparison to the way things happen in your home country?

SM: Again, I’m lucky because I am ‘white.’ You know, most people like the way I look, so they are very nice to me. But my best friend is African-Canadian, and her skin is quite dark. She says people are afraid of her, even though she hasn’t done anything. She is very nice and such a wonderful person.

So it would be really nice if step by step, people could understand that being different is not always dangerous or scary. Different color of skin, tattoos are not dangerous, just different.

I know it’s not easy and it takes time, but I really wish people could be more open to other cultures and they could accept a different culture just the way it is.

Interviewed on June 22nd, 2012