Learning a foreign language is never easy, and for many it can even be a painful process.
How would the suffering be eased, though, if teachers and students could wear their favorite anime, manga or video-game characters’ costumes in class and then all tackle the learning curve together?
Well, it might be fun. But it sounds unreal, doesn’t it?
Yet in this wacky, wondrous postmodern world, a group of people are about to launch that far-fetched approach to learning for real.
What they’ve come up with is Cosplish — a mix of your typical English-language school in Japan and the country’s famous homegrown kosupure (“cosplay,” or “costume play”) culture.
“I’ve always wanted to do a business in relation to English,” said Cosplish founder Tomohiro Suzuki.
As the globalization wave surges around the world, Suzuki, 26, who has studied and worked in England, Australia and New Zealand, said he realized that the market for English schools in Japan — already in abundant supply — still had potential for growth. But he didn’t ever intend to run a regular school — and his priority was to add fun to the educational equation.
Having worked as a branch manager and sales and promotions manager at the @home Cafe in Tokyo’s geek capital of Akihabara — a locally famed “maid cafe” where the cutesy young staff come skimpily attired like fantasy French maids — Suzuki saw a business opportunity in that same locale where all kinds of people and offbeat businesses mingle.
The target audience for this school is not only geeks (otaku in Japanese) but also a more general clientele, said Suzuki — and even though the teachers all wear costumes, it is not mandatory for students to do so as well.
Then, in the equally unorthodox second session, titled “Otaku Eiken,” the topic was common abbreviations used on social-networking sites, in e-mail and instant messaging. So it was that we budding linguists were introduced to the likes of B4, PLZ, GR8 and LOL — with Schwalbe explaining their meanings and when and how to use them.
Finally, for our third session, the topic returned to “Gundam,” with teacher Tristan Walker clad in the clingy blue-and-white costume of Amuro Ray, a “Gundam” pilot. Nonetheless, Walker was enthusiastic in working together to translate some lines from “Gundam” into English — as well as leading a quiz with his pupils about weapons from “Gundam.”
And many participants had some positive things to say.
“I thought it was charming, very frank and easy to get involved with for beginners,” said Kaori Sakakibara, a designer and a fan of “Gundam” and anime. “The abbreviations for online chatting were very practical. I will try out what I learned,” she said.
Another participant, anime fan Hiroaki Sawada, 37, said the idea of the school is unique and has potential, but he hoped the third session of “Gundam” would go even deeper into details.
Walker brought up a similar point, saying “balancing the general audience with the hardcore audience” is a challenge.
Cosplish plans to start regular sessions from the end of this month on weekends, according to Suzuki.
Schwalbe, who thought the trial went pretty well, said she hopes that the school attracts more attention, and will inspire many more people to say: “Yeah, I’m going to go to school and have fun!”
For more details about studying Cosplish, visit cosplish.seesaa.net/