Advice from Senpai for Transfer Students

Senpai (先輩・せんぱい) means one's senior at school, in his/her work place, or in martial art and other training clubs, where experience is highly regarded. In traditional Japanese culture, the senpai is expected to teach, guide, and support his/her kohai (後輩・こうはい) 'new-comers, junior'. Here is valuable advice from your senpai about how to study the Japanese language.


Transferring to Cal is a bit different from entering directly as a freshman. In my case, I had attended community college for about 3 years before I transferred into the College of Letters & Science as a junior.

I found the Cal Japanese language program to be excellent. Classes met 5 days a week, and there were never more than 25 students. There were several group skits and assignments. On top of this, the teachers were very knowledgeable and friendly. I found very interesting that we would rotate among different teachers on different days, which I believe led to a better learning experience.

The first thing you want to note is that courses at Berkeley are generally a lot more intensive than their counterparts in community college. I had actually done 2 years of Japanese in community college, but placed into J10A (the 2nd year Japanese class).

If you already have prior Japanese experience and want to continue studying Japanese at Cal, the first thing you need to do is determine which class you fit best. The way to do this is to review the course descriptions and sample placement tests. In my case, the grammar patterns I had covered in community college were very similar to those covered in Berkeley’s J1A and J1B, but the Kanji differed. If you are in the same situation, don’t worry! Just choose the course you feel you fit best into and study the Kanji and grammar patterns needed to place into that course. It would also be a good idea to buy and study the Japanese textbooks used at Berkeley.

Above all, don’t worry! After you take the placement test, the Japanese teachers will talk with you and help you learn anything you are missing. Although the Japanese program at Cal is intensive, once you get in, I am sure you will have a lot of fun with it. You’ll meet a lot of new people and be exposed to a lot of new things.

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