Meet Akira Yamazaki, a Recent Graduate from the General English Program at Bridge

Parting is such sweet sorrow at Bridge Denver for the students and teachers alike. Every Friday, there is a graduation in the student lounge to celebrate the commencement of another group of Bridge graduates ready to move onward and upward in the world now that they have gained a better ability to speak English. People cry, people laugh, pictures are taken and heartwarming speeches are given. It is difficult for most Bridge students to leave but it is especially difficult for the students who have been studying here for many months and have made Denver their second home. As 2011 comes to an end, it is time to say goodbye to another group of Bridge graduates.

One of those graduates is Akira Yamazaki. Akira has been studying at Bridge since September in the general business executive course. He is from Yokohama, Japan, just outside of Tokyo and works for KYB Corporation, a company that makes oil hydraulic components for cars, excavators and airplanes. Friday, December 30, was Akira’s last day at Bridge and I had the chance to not only teach Akira but to also interview him about his experience at Bridge Denver.

AB: Akira, why did you initially choose Bridge as your english language school?

AY: Well, my agent in Japan showed me many schools all over the US but I was very hesitant about going to a big city like New York or Los Angeles because I didn’t think my English was good at all and I just didn’t feel comfortable going to that big of a city not being confident about my English speaking abilities. Denver seemed like a good-sized city, not too big. Plus, I love nature and the mountains, so Bridge was a good choice for me.

AB: What was your English learning experience before coming to Bridge?

AY: I had taken English in primary school and high school of course, just like all Japanese students, but unfortunately the main focus of English class is to just get high test scores so we can get into university. We don’t really learn how to speak at all. We learn just enough to get a good score on the entrance exam before college. I never really had much interest in English when I was younger but when I was at university I became very interested in learning English. Initially, I learned on my own at a private institute in my country but I didn’t have time to take many classes, maybe once a week at most for an hour or so, which was a problem because once a week really isn’t enough time to learn a new language. I had also gone to England and New York on vacation but only for a week or so, which isn’t enough time to learn anything. Then, when I started working for my company I honestly didn’t have a purpose for learning English because my job at the time wasn’t related to knowing how to speak English. But then I realized that English is necessary to be able to work in the world and to have more opportunities. My company also offered some English classes but again, they were only once a week so I didn’t retain much. Later, I switched positions in my company to the administration department and that’s when they decided to send me to a school in the US to learn English.

AB: How do you feel now about your English speaking skills?

AY: I feel so much more confident than before. I remember the first day of orientation at Bridge and the Student Coordinator was telling me about the school and the classes and I was thinking to myself, “what did she say?” Now I could definitely understand everything if I had to do orientation over again. I feel confident in speaking and my vocabulary has grown a lot. I really feel good about how much I have learned and how much I have improved. It feels great to have that confidence.

AB: What has been the most challenging part of learning English?

AY: Listening is definitely the most difficult aspect of English. Although I can understand the other students and the teachers, when I listen to two natives speaking I can’t understand much because they talk so fast. It is also challenging watching movies and TV in English. Sometimes I get frustrated but I do feel so much more confident in my speaking skills, however, I do need to continue learning so I can get to a level where I can feel totally confident using English for my job.

AB: What was your favorite class?

AY: All of my classes have been great. Even though I really liked the private classes, I would say that my favorite classes were the group classes because not only did we study English but we also got to learn about different cultures from the other students in class. There are students from all over the world and I love learning about their cultures and their countries while in class. The discussions we have had about culture and customs in class have been really interesting and great speaking practice.

AB: What are some activities you have done while you have been here in Colorado?

AY: I have done a lot of really fun things. I have been to Red Rocks Amphitheater and Coors Brewery, Rocky Mountain National Park, Cave of the Winds, Garden of the Gods, but my favorite activity was probably going snowboarding at Copper Mountain. I love snowboarding. I have snowboarded a lot in Japan, so it was great to be able to do it in Colorado. Colorado is such a pretty state with so many fun things to do. Of course, going out with my friends was also very fun and entertaining.

AB: What has been your favorite part about staying in Colorado and learning at Bridge Denver?

AY: Definitely the friends I have made. I initially chose Bridge because it was a smaller school and I thought that it would be more like a family and it definitely has been like a family for me here. It has met all of my expectations. All of my friends and teachers were so great and they really encouraged me to study. I really like the teachers and staff at Bridge because they all have experienced so many things all over the world. Most of them have been to different countries and speak different languages. Even though Bridge is smaller than other schools, for me it doesn’t matter because here it feels like family. Graduation is going to be sad but I know I will keep in touch with all my friends and the teachers. This has been one of the best experiences of my life.

AB: What are you plans after graduation from Bridge?

AY: I am actually going to San Francisco for two more months to study more English and then I will go back to Japan for a bit and then I am relocating back to the United States to Wichita, Kansas where I will begin working at a subsidiary of my company in Japan. I am excited to be able to live in the US again, probably in a year or so. I dream about how good my English will be by then. Very good!