A two-year community college such as the College of San Mateo would not ordinarily be expected to host an internationally known foreign scholar for a full semester. But, this spring, CSM boasts its first Fulbright Scholar in Residence.
Japanese professor Yukio Tsuda, 52, is teaching a 15-week course in intercultural communication at the Hillsdale Avenue campus while also preparing advanced lectures for the linguistics faculties of Stanford University and the University of Washington.
Tsuda’s academic specialty is studying the barriers to reaching understanding when only one speaker is communicating in a native language. His own English vocabulary is impeccable. He obtained a master’s degree and doctorate from the University of Southern Illinois during the 1970s and spent 1999 doing language research in Hawaii under a prior Fulbright grant.
Tsuda found that his first years in America were a dramatic firsthand demonstration of cultural differences.
"It was very hard work to become really comfortable with the English language," he said. "Japanese speakers are very polite, so I had to get used to Americans being more direct and straightforward. But, eventually, I came to realize it is good to have frank communication. In Japan, it can be harder to know what the other person actually has in mind."
Tsuda appreciates the wide diversity among the 14 students in his College of San Mateo course. The class has students of all ages, and the ethnic range includes people born in Poland and Brazil.
CSM has a very global student body, so it made sense for the community college to recruit a visiting Fulbright Scholar who has expertise in intercultural communication issues, said Modesta Garcia, who coordinates the college’s Diversity in Action program.
"I also think professor Tsuda can relate strongly to the fact that so many of our students have a background of struggling to learn English as their second language," Garcia said.
While Tsuda fully recognizes that the English language has become highly influential worldwide, his goal is to promote more foreign language learning and usage in all countries, including the United States.
"It’s not that I don’t like English or the American people," Tsuda said. But he believes a more equal distribution of communication in different languages would lead to better international understanding.