Creating student engagement through activity

On Friday 9 June, the School of Languages and Cultures’ Japanese department hosted its first karuta taikai (card tournament) for students to test their knowledge and celebrate the end of the trimester.

Dr Emerald King, who masterminded the tournament as a way for students to engage with their peers and consolidate their learning, says they had a good crowd of 1st and 2nd year Japanese students, who all competed for a $40 VicBooks voucher.  A creative use of resources meant there was no need for a budget, as King had received the voucher for participating in VicBooks’ Essential Reader’s book club series.

Karuta is a card game that plays something like a cross between 'snap' and 'memory.' It includes complex poetry variants in which participants must first learn a set of 100 poems to simpler hiragana and katakana variants. A narrator calls out a poem and players must find the correct card.

King said there was some initial scepticism from newcomers as to how the tournament could last for two hours, but that soon disappeared when the progressively fast-paced and lively game kicked off and the students developed their confidence.  Some students even continued to play after the tournament was already won.

The tournament was made possible by the Language Learning Centre, who have four decks of karuta featuring stories from Japanese and world fairy tales.  King hopes this will be the first of many karuta taikai.