I strive to keep learning hands-on and fun. More personal engagement, less PowerPoint.

Elizabeth Armstrong

Professor of East Asian Studies Elizabeth Armstrong says it's easy to identify with her students' enthusiasm because she, too, discovered Japanese language classes as a first-year.

"Seeing the excitement in their eyes really does it for me," she says. "I love that what I teach is not a requirement. All my students are here by choice and, thanks to manga and anime, Japanese culture is becoming more popular all the time."

Armstrong's language courses include first-year and third-year Japanese as well as an advanced course for anyone whose skills exceed the third-year level. Since her courses attract students from across all majors, she challenges herself every semester to meet each group's unique interests. "Basically, I've taught here for 18 years and developed 18 unique syllabi," she laughs.

In addition to Japanese language classes, Armstrong teaches a course in translation studies, has published one English translation of short stories by Terayama Shūji, and has another collection in the works.

As an undergraduate, Armstrong majored in East Asian studies and spent her junior year abroad in Kyoto. After graduation, she returned to Japan to work in the fashion industry and later became an interpreter for a major chemical conglomerate in Tokyo. Eventually, she returned to the States to continue her career as a technical interpreter.

"My years between undergraduate and graduate schools gave me amazing life experience," she says. "I see so many young people stressed about their futures, but I'm here to attest that your life plan does not have to be linear. My ‘pinball' approach has brought me to exactly where I needed to be."

Armstrong describes her junior year abroad with the Associated Kyoto Program as a pivotal life experience and is thrilled to take part in the same program at Bucknell. "Forty years later, I still have friends in Japan — including my host family. It's an amazing program," she says. "What an opportunity this is to encourage my students to explore Japan as I did, and hopefully make the same kind of lifelong connections."

According to the State Department, Japanese is one of the three most difficult languages for a native English speaker to learn. "That's why my teaching assistants and I strive to keep the learning hands-on and fun," says Armstrong. "More personal engagement, less PowerPoint."

Posted February 2018